Former president Mary Robinson has said a newly published charter of rights for people with dementia would help society view the condition in a new light.
Ireland's first such document is the culmination of work carried out by the Irish Dementia Working Group and the Alzheimer Society of Ireland (ASI).
The Charter of Rights for People with Dementia stresses the need for a parity of rights for the 48,000 people estimated to have the condition in Ireland.
Specifically, it highlights policy gaps in the areas of stigma and the “inadequate and inappropriate” nature of services.
Speaking at its launch in Dublin yesterday, Mrs Robinson, a former UN high commissioner for human rights, said the organisations’ work had gone some way toward tackling one of society’s hidden injustices.
“I hope that the launch of this charter will enable us all to see people with dementia in a new light with the same human rights as all of us and with a voice that needs to be heard,” she said.
“It was a significant step to see the importance of using a human rights lens because that would empower those with dementia to be as involved as possible in addressing the challenges. That is what has happened and that is what this charter is all about.”
A charter is a document setting out a body of rights. While those with dementia have the same rights as others in society, they often face obstacles accessing them, the authors have said.
Based on internationally agreed standards, the charter promotes “the respect, protection and fulfilment” of those rights.
"The objective is to inform a human rights-based approach to the development of services and supports for people with dementia and carers living in Ireland," said ASI chief executive Colette Kelleher.
In particular it looks at issues of participation, the right to access information and support services, take part in decision making, and access independent and community life.
There are demands on accountability, where service providers should be held responsible for the “respect, protection and fulfilment” of people’s rights. Non-discrimination, equality and legal rights are also included. The charter is designed to be used as a resource to help people exercise their rights and as a tool to guide policy and service provision.