Living with Alzheimer’s: ‘He’s not an eejit, he just communicates differently’

New campaign launched to increase support and understanding for dementia conditions

The HSE launches its Dementia: Understand Together campaign, working with the Alzheimer's Society of Ireland, Genio and more than 30 partner organisations. Video: HSE

 

Sitting on a prop sofa surrounded by autumn leaves in Dublin’s Merrion Square, Paddy Butler and Maureen O’Hara hold up their cups of tea and smile for the cameras.

Mr Butler (70) from Kilkenny, has Alzheimer’s disease and features in a new in a new HSE advertising campaign. Dementia: Understand Together aims to increase support and understanding for dementia conditions.

Mr Butler said when originally diagnosed he was unsure of whether or not to tell people for fear of their reaction. “I just thought, ‘Do I hide it or be straight?’ I went with straight because what was I doing trying to hide it? I knew it would only make matters worse. You have to go out and do what you have to do, do everything as you used to do it before.”

His wife Lindsay felt very protective of people’s interactions with him after his diagnosis. “But now that people know, I don’t feel as protective. People need to take their own responsibility to how they react,” she said.

“He’s not an eejit, he just communicates a lot differently than he used to. He might understand a conversation differently and his response times are different but he’s still the same person.”

Staying connected

Ms O’Hara (57), from Kilkenny, also features in the new campaign. She was diagnosed with early onset dementia in 2014. For her, staying connected with her friends and neighbours is the most important thing.

“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.”

Minister for Health Simon Harris said the campaign “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.”

He also spoke of his hopes to establish a dementia register in 2018 “so that we can learn in terms of the data, so that the condition can learn more about dementia incidents and trends”.

Some 55,000 people in the State live with dementia and this is expected to double to 113,000 by 2036.