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Sounding Board Event, Royal Hospital Kilmainham

55,000 reasons why we need to tackle dementia

August 14th, 2016

Today there are approximately 50,000 people living with dementia in Ireland. This number is set to double by 2031.  As numbers increase it is vital that we address the challenges dementia poses to the individual, carers and our communities.

A new national awareness campaign will be launched this October by the HSE in partnership with the Alzheimer’s Society of Ireland and Genio with financial support from The Atlantic Philanthropies. The campaign aims to bring dementia out of the shadows and to create a Dementia Aware Ireland.

Each year 4000 people in Ireland are diagnosed with dementia- that’s 11 people every day. Behind the numbers there are mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, neighbours and friends.  All are living with a brain condition that deeply affects their lives and the lives of people who care for them.

Fear and stigma surround dementia. This means that people are missing out on treatments, support and services. These things can allow them to live with dementia for many years while maintaining their dignity and a quality of life.

The National Dementia Awareness Campaign is one of the five strands of the National Dementia Strategy Implementation Programme. It is a three year education and awareness campaign that aims to start a conversation at national and local levels to help create open and inclusive spaces for people with dementia, their carers and friends and family.

The campaign held a sounding board event on June 13th in Kilmainham Hospital, Dublin. The event attended by over 130 people featured the findings from the research, heard from those at the frontline of dementia and featured an interactive session aimed at gathering as many ideas and suggestions that could help inform the campaign as it prepares for launch.

Professor Brian Lawlor, Consultant Psychiatrist and Chairperson of the National Dementia Campaign underlined how the experience of dementia is “characterised by fear fear, lack of understanding, and avoidance of the people affected”.

The personal experience of dementia was movingly explored by Ronan Smith, Irish Dementia Working Group, “The disease is a moving target, no, it’s worse, it is a changing target that also moves, creating a challenging situation of real complexity – no “one-size-fits-all”, no easy answers, but openness and alertness can certainly help the process”.

Dr Ronan Glynn, HSE, spoke about the reluctance of people with symptoms to seek help or diagnosis. He also highlighted lack of awareness that there are things that can reduce your risks of getting dementia including not smoking and getting enough physical and mental activity in your daily life.

Opening the event Dr Stephanie O’Keefe, National Director Health and Wellbeing Division said, “Dementia is a major challenge with a tremendous impact on the lives of people with the condition, their families and carers and the wider community. I am delighted to welcome so many people from all over the country from a wide range of organisations and professions to this event. Your support is invaluable as we plan our campaign which we hope will make a real difference to the lives of people with dementia.”

The event also featured presentations on the results of focus groups and interviews carried out by Zuilmah Wallis for the campaign and an overview of the Living Well with Dementia Programme by Joan Fitzpatrick. Louise O’Mahony from the Banking & Payments Federation Ireland gave a perspective on working with customers with dementia.

Working closely with the National Dementia Office and our partners the campaign will be launched in October. It hopes not only to inform but also give an opportunity for those affected by dementia to share their stories and vision of a more supportive society.

For more information

Contact Nicola Donnelly, National Dementia Campaign Manager Tel 01 635 2478 / Mobile 087 0985529 E: nicola.donnelly1@hse.ie

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