Keeping care in the home
According to analysis of the 2006 census, 1,011 people in south Tipperary were living with dementia, but only half that number had received an official diagnosis.
The funding will enable several initiatives to be implemented. These include increasing public awareness of the condition and, in the process, dispelling some common myths, as well as encouraging people to come forward earlier for diagnosis and treatment.
Of major benefit to people affected by dementia will be the provision of high quality, flexible care in the home to help people stay living at home for as long as possible, as well as tailored palliative end-of-life care.
Dr Christina Donnellan, who is a consultant geriatrician in South Tipperary General Hospital, says that more flexible supports for families will be a key plank of the project. “In general terms, we are looking at more services like home help and home care attendants. We would hope to be able to deliver some patient-centred care so that we would be looking at each person individually and access what it is they need to improve their quality of life.”
Fellow consultant physician Dr Isweri Pillay believes the programme will also be of benefit when applied to end-of-life care.
“The disease trajectory means there is a very long time between diagnosis and death, usually a decade. At some point, the patient can no longer tell you what they want. So we need patients to know where they are in disease so they can decide on their preferences.
“Part of the project then will be finding out exactly what patients need and we are enlisting the support of third-level institutions to do this.”
One local service user who should benefit from the project is 62-year-old Bernadette Hennebry, who lives with her son, Michael, in the Glen of Aherlow.
She was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s (which is diagnosed before the age of 65) and benefits from some home care hours at present, which it is hoped will be increased as a result of the project.
When I visited her last week, Bernadette was quite agitated, accusing Michael of physical violence and directing constant insults towards him. Michael runs the farm seven days a week, and the additional help is needed to enable his mother continue to live at home as her condition progresses.
“This evening, I was moving calves to a new field a bit away from the house when I got a phone call from a neighbour down the road,” Michael says.
“My mother took off walking and a stranger found her sitting on the side of the road. My mother’s mother died at 62 from the same ailment.” On the day I called, Bernadette was convinced family members had taken her jewellery, and she points out Michael’s perceived failings to others present.
“You get used to it,” Michael says. “She’d call you everything. That’s not the way she used to be. She used to be a nice person. She does know what is going on, but, bit by bit, she is losing her grasp of reality.