Keeping care in the home
A pilot project is looking at new ways to support Alzheimer’s sufferers in Tipperary
ALZHEIMER’S, WHICH is the commonest form of dementia, is often a private condition, played out behind closed doors, away from the community and within the confines of the family home.
Marie Ryan has Alzheimer’s and she doesn’t care who knows it. In fact, she tells me that sometimes she tells people about her condition, just to see their reaction.
They look at her in puzzlement, as if to say how can someone so coherent be unwell. That’s not to say Marie doesn’t have her frustrations. She used to love going shopping, especially for clothes.
While she has lived with her condition for five years, recently she had to give up driving and she finds it difficult to handle money. This has made shopping a lot more difficult.
“I had to give up driving rather abruptly in the end because my reactions were not quick enough. I drove for 35 years. People ring me now and say ‘Are you in if I call?’ I’m here morning, noon and night, unfortunately. They could never get me before. I do miss Dublin, where you have all the shops. I’m now dependent on other people to bring me out and that is a huge change.”
Marie’s Alzheimer’s manifests itself in several ways – repeatedly she says she believes her house has more bedrooms than it does and that they require cleaning or that clothes need tidying.
“I get on well with people once they don’t ask me a blunt question. I think it’s important to keep talking about it and to try to carry on as normal. I can’t emphasise enough how much company helps.”
Earlier this year, Marie was part of a consortium which successfully bid for south Tipperary to be chosen as one of four pilot projects in Ireland aimed at developing and testing new service models to assist in diverting people with dementia from institutional care.
In other words, if successful, the project should switch the focus from hospitals and other inpatient services, to models of suitable and sustainable community care.
The south Tipperary project is supported by the charity Genio, and is funded to the tune of €700,000 over the next three years.
Dr Caitríona Crowe, who is a local consultant in old-age psychiatry, will lead the project and it has support from all relevant local agencies including the HSE, as well as patients themselves and their families.
“The aim of the project is to find new ways to support persons with dementia at home,” explains Crowe. “If you look at the statistics, instances of dementia are increasing as the elderly population rises.
“We expect the number of cases to double by 2031 and treble by 2041. Most persons with the condition want to stay living at home and don’t want long-term care unless it is really needed.
“We are trying to encourage people to live well at home as long as possible and we’ll be using this funding to try to do that.”