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Understand Together launches TV campaign featuring real-life stories of people with dementia

Living with dementia: Maureen’s story;

Living with dementia: Paddy and Lindsey’s story

Only 1 in 4 of us are confident that we understand dementia, and nearly half of us are unsure people could stay friends with someone with dementia

Campaign aims to increase understanding and keep friendships, community and family connections alive, so that more people can live well with dementia

Dublin, Ireland: Thursday October 26 2017 at the National Gallery of Ireland.

A new TV, radio and online advertising campaign to increase understanding and support for people living with dementia was today launched by the Minister for Health, Simon Harris TD, as part of the Dementia: Understand Together initiative. The launch saw the unveiling of two new TV adverts telling the stories of Maureen O'Hara and Paddy Butler, both from Kilkenny, who have generously shared their experience of living with dementia for the campaign.

Launching the new campaign, Minister Harris said: "The Dementia: Understand Together campaign seeks to raise awareness, increase understanding, and address the loneliness often experienced by people living with dementia and their families. We want to open up conversations in homes, workplaces and communities across the country about dementia, increasing understanding and reducing the isolation that people with the condition frequently experience. It aims to show that people with dementia can be supported to live well, and that each of us can play our part by maintaining friendships and including people in our shared community life.

Professor Brian Lawlor, Consultant Psychiatrist and Chair of the Dementia: Understand Together campaign said today: ‘There are an estimated 55,000 people living with dementia in Ireland today and this number is expected to more than double to 113,000 by 2036.  Half a million people in Ireland have had a family member with dementia, yet we know that despite this widespread experience, only 1 in 4 of us is confident that we understand dementia.  According to people living with dementia, fear and uncertainty often leads to friends, family and neighbours feeling awkward or embarrassed, so often they say and do nothing. It can leave people with dementia and their loved ones feeling alone. This stigma was reflected in our quantitative research, which shows that close on half of us are unsure we can stay close friends with someone with dementia.

"I Don't Like 'Wasting' Time. I Like 'Spending' Time" Maureen O'Hara, age 57, from Clongowen, Kilkenny, is one of the two people living with dementia to feature in the first phase of the TV campaign. For Maureen, who was diagnosed with Young Onset Dementia in 2014, staying connected with neighbours and friends is all-important. This connectivity allows her to live well and independently with the condition: “For me the diagnosis wasn't a shock as I had been living it. It was nearly a relief to know. What's most important for me is being connected with people. It's about being out there  ̶  whether that's enjoying hill-walking or keeping in touch with neighbours and friends. I don't like wasting time  ̶  rather, I like spending time. It makes my life worthwhile."

Paddy Butler, age 70 and also from Kilkenny, was diagnosed with dementia due to Alzheimer's disease in recent years. For Paddy, it was important to be up-front with people about his diagnosis: "When I was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, at the start, I didn't know what I was doing, what was happening. I asked myself do I hide it or do I be straight up? Kilkenny is a small place and I know a lot of people. I decided I had to go and face it and to be straight with people. Trying to hide things would have been worse. It should be out there. More people talk to me now than before and everyone says 'hello' when I pass by. It's important to show that people with Alzheimer's can keep going. I like to keep up my interests as best I can. I like to go walking, to go for a cuppa, to go to Nolan Park to support the Cats. You have to live your life."

Dr Stephanie O'Keeffe, National Director of Health and Wellbeing, at the Health Service Executive said:  "This campaign is about looking at some of the people behind the difficult statistics and facts that we know. It's about bringing dementia out of the shadows and into the open and changing understanding and attitudes for the better. The result will, we hope, be a greater willingness by people worried about dementia to seek help and access supports and services at an earlier stage, and, secondly, a greater sense of solidarity by including people with dementia more in our lives. Whether it's calling in on a neighbour for a chat, or as a business, undertaking dementia awareness training and services for customers – each one of us can make a difference in our personal and community lives, while our health service takes on the ongoing challenge of meeting the clinical and professional needs of people living with dementia."

Mr Michael Fitzgerald, Head of Operations and Service Improvement - Services for Older People, at the Health Service Executive said: “Dementia is one of the biggest challenges facing our society; as our ageing population increases the number of people with dementia will grow in the coming years and decades. This campaign is important so that dementia can be better understood and accepted, and so that we can all support people to live well and independently for as long as possible.  We have many thousands of people in our health service working to provide diagnostic, community, home and residential care to people with dementia and their families; meeting the full needs of today’s population is a challenge, and our needs as a society are growing each year.  Our teams are working to carefully manage the services and resources we have, and together with this campaign’s stakeholders, advocate for increased investment in the clinical and community support needs of people with dementia in Ireland.’

The campaign is part of the Dementia: Understand Together initiative, which is led by the HSE in partnership with the Alzheimer Society of Ireland and Genio. The campaign is funded by the HSE and The Atlantic Philanthropies, and began in 2015.  This new phase of the campaign will run on national television, national and regional radio stations, and digital and social media from today, and continue until the end of 2018.

The launch of the campaign coincides with the official unveiling of a new "go-to" website for people who want to find out more about dementia - www.understandtogether.ie . The website features a service finder detailing county-by-county the dementia supports and services available. It also offers a range of training resources for carers, and for busineses and organisations in the retail, transport, public and financial sectors. Support packs, including posters, leaflets and badges, can be ordered also.

For more information on the Dementia: Understand Together initiative, visit www.understandtogether.ie  or Freephone 1800 341 341.

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