Services for people with dementia set to get worse, says Alzheimer charity

Alzheimer Society of Ireland calls for €19 million investment in dementia-specific care to meet a growing need

An urgent investment of €19 million is needed to address the growing need for dementia-specific care, the Alzheimer Society of Ireland (ASI) has claimed.

The number of people with dementia, a form of Alzheimer’s disease, has risen from 54,000 to 64,000 in the past 10 years as the population ages. It is expected to reach 150,000 by 2045 as the population grows progressively older and people live longer.

Cormac Cahill, the society’s head of advocacy, research and public affairs, says a 2017 study on dementia-specific services found no county in the State had met an international baseline for these. He says the situation has worsened since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic and that things will get worse unless need is addressed now.

“There needs to be an increased focus on the rising numbers of people developing dementia. We really need to get planning for the future. This is about all of us, our future, older selves will thank us for taking action now,” he says.

In its pre-budget submission, the society asked for a €10 million investment in dementia home care, a further €4.2 million for dementia-specific day services, €2.3 million for therapeutic support and education for family carers, €1.4 million in memory assessment and support services, €1 million for dementia research centres of excellence and €120,000 for inclusive dementia supports.

This would include an LGBT online support group, a national sporting memories reminiscence programme and a young onset dementia online support group.

Two-thirds of people with dementia are treated at home. The society says the extra funding already in place for home care is not sufficient to help people affected by dementia. It believes an extra €2.5 million would help to reduce the waiting lists and provide extra days to people living with dementia.

Several of the society’s day centres have not fully reopened following the pandemic, due to the rising costs in providing day care services especially with staff shortages.

Mr Cahill adds that the society is like “any other organisation: our funding is remaining the same and our costs are rising, and the need for our services is growing every day”.

“We really appreciate the support that we have received from the Government and our funders, but the truth is that more funding is now required to meet the growing need and to ensure that people living with dementia and their families are not short of a vital service.”

Speaking at the launch, Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall said the Government was trying to provide care “on the cheap”.

“There is a huge demand for caring. Those jobs are being outsourced, they are yellow pack jobs, there is no security. It is any wonder so many of them are going into retail,” she said.

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times