Dementia cases will triple over next 25 years, says ageing expert

NUI Galway’s Prof Eamon O’Shea says treatment is costing €1.9bn annually

Former Tipperary senior hurling manager Eamon O’Shea. Families bear about half of this cost, he estimates. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Dementia is the most important ageing question facing society, with the number of cases set to triple over the next 25 years, a leading expert has warned.

The cost of treating dementia is €1.9 billion yearly, according to Prof Eamon O'Shea, director of a new centre for research into the condition at NUI Galway. Families bear about half of this cost, he estimated.

Prof O’Shea called for the mobilisation of intellectual resources in support of a “liberating” strategy on dementia. Stressing the need to agree key priorities for allocating resources, he said this approach must support “the practice of personhood”.

“Do we have the vision, courage and capacity to imagine and initiate a new paradigm for people with dementia and to recalibrate the national dementia strategy to support that new paradigm?” he asked, speaking at the official opening of the Centre for Economic and Social Research on Dementia.



Prof O’Shea, who is the former manager of the Tipperary senior hurling team, said public knowledge about the condition was improving but attitudes remained “largely negative, pessimistic and nihilistic”. A diagnosis of dementia still carried a stigma, he said.

The centre, which has been funded with a €1.6 million award from the Health Research Board, aims to provide "transformative research" to support personhood within dementia.

The number of dementia cases is projected to grow from 41,000 in 2006 to 141,000 in 2041.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is a former heath editor of The Irish Times.