To mark Dementia Awareness week 2013 health and social care professionals are focusing on promoting a greater understanding of dementia and encouraging people to overcome their fear to seek help.
Eleanor Ross, Nurse Consultant with the Public Health Agency said: “We would encourage people who have concerns about their memory to seek help as soon as possible. At present it is estimated that there are 19,000 people living with dementia in Northern Ireland; fewer than 1,000 of these people have early onset dementia. It is vital that people who have early stage dementia are aware of the practical help and support available and how they can access these.
“According to figures published this week by the Alzheimer’s Society, almost half of UK adults would find it difficult to tell their own family if they thought they had dementia. It is essential that people, family members and carers understand the benefits of discussing their concerns as early as possible. It is only through talking openly about dementia and its impact on daily life that we can remove the fear and stigma associated with the condition. Furthermore, an early diagnosis allows people to receive the treatment and care which enable them to live independent and fulfilling lives in their own community. Early diagnosis and support also enable people to make their own decisions about their care and to make plans for the future.
“It is fitting also, during Dementia awareness week, to announce the award of a £2m grant from the Atlantic Philanthropies, a limited life foundation dedicated to bringing about lasting changes in the lives of disadvantaged and vulnerable people. This funding to commission research on dementia care and treatment will build knowledge and inform developments in dementia services to meet increasing demand into the future.”
The Public Health Agency and Health and Social Care Board are working jointly with the Alzheimer’s Society and local Health and Social Care Trusts to implement Improving Dementia Services in Northern Ireland. This regional strategy aims to promote a culture which ensures people with dementia are supported to live with dignity and without stigma.
Seamus McErlean, Commissioning Lead for Older People and Adult Services at the Health and Social Care Board said: “Frequently people are reluctant to seek help with memory problems as they feel that nothing can be done. However there is help available through the memory clinics provided by local Trusts where they can avail of assessment and referral onto appropriate care services. Through the implementation of the strategy an additional £1m has been made available for developing and enhancing memory clinics to ensure these services are delivered consistently across the province.
“Statutory health and social care organisations are working in partnership with the Alzheimer’s Society to make the public aware of the supports which promote independence and support families and carers. These include supported housing, care at home, lifestyle advice and information on local support groups. It is vital therefore that we encourage people to discuss their concerns and have the confidence to ask for help.”
The principle of supported living and promoting independence are key principles which support the delivery of the recommendations of the Transforming Your Care Review (2011). These represent a radical change to how and where health services are delivered in communities through a shift of service provision, moving care out of institutions and hospitals and into the community.
If you, or a member of your family, have concerns about Alzheimer’s disease or about any other form of dementia the Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Helpline 0300 222 1122 can provide information, support, guidance and signposting to other appropriate organisations.