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Nursing Homes

There is only one respite bed per 450 people with dementia in Ireland

Only 52 nursing homes nationally have specialised care units for people with the disease.

THERE IS JUST one respite bed for every 450 people with dementia in Ireland, a new study has found.

Some 30,000 people have dementia nationally and there are 66 respite beds available across 54 specialist care units in nursing homes.

SCUs are facilities catering exclusively for the needs of people with dementia.

The survey was carried out by Trinity College Dublin and included 602 nursing homes. It also found that an average of 19 people live in each privately-run SCU - far in excess of best practice recommendations.

Two thirds of all nursing homes are privately run, while one in five are operated by the HSE and a small minority are voluntary not-for-profit bodies.

The average number of residents in voluntary sector SCUs is 29, falling to 16 in HSE-run facilities.

Just 12 per cent of nursing homes have SCUs.

The facilities are not evenly distributed nationally. The survey found that areas such as Cavan, Monaghan, Cork, Donegal and Galway are oversupplied, while there is no privision in Dublin, Carlow or Wicklow.


A significantly larger proportion of privately-owned SCUs, compared with HSE and voluntary bodies, reported that all nurses and healthcare attendant staff had undergone dementia-specific training.

The 54 SCUs cater for 1,034 people with dementia – two per cent of all people estimated to have the disease in Ireland.

One in 20 of these residents were aged less than 65 years and only one person had Alzheimer’s disease related to Down Syndrome.

Suzanne Cahill, the Associate Professor at TCD who led the research, said the findings “shed new light on the location, lay out and ethos of residential care settings that cater exclusively for the needs of people with dementia.”

They show a significant under-supply in this type of specialist care provision in areas around the country where we know demand will in the future be significant. Private nursing homes are providing the main bulk of specialist dementia care. They are expected to comply with specific criteria yet they receive no additional payments from the government for residents with very high dependency needs.

Admission criteria to SCUs varied considerably across the three different service providers. The study described it as “surprising” that two thirds of HSE providers stipulated that residents be independently mobile, given the fact they are more expensive and supposedly cater to those with higher dependency needs.

Virtually all SCUs offer therapeutic activities including aromatherapy, music, art and Yoga. However, domestic activities such as cooking or laundry were not always available.

Most units have end-of-life policies, but a small number sometimes discharge dying residents out to other nursing homes or to acute care.

The study noted that despite the expected increase in prevalence of dementia in Ireland, no significant expansion in supply is likely in the foreseeable future.

Related: Dementia sufferers ‘inadequately assessed’ in Irish hospitals

Read: What’s the difference between Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia?

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