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Voices

Column: 4,000 people under the age of 65 are living with dementia in this country

Let’s make 2015 the year we begin to listen the voice of the person with dementia.

Image: Shutterstock/Miriam Doerr

TODAY WAS A long awaited one for the Alzheimer Society of Ireland and for the 48,000 people in this country with dementia and the 50,000 family carers: Ireland now has a National Dementia Strategy for the first time.

While the launch of Ireland’s first National Dementia Strategy is welcomed, it must be emphasised that the strategy alone will do little enhance the lives of people living with dementia in Ireland without effective implementation. Funding has been made available for three priority areas – intensive home care supports, GP education and training and dementia awareness and this is welcome. However, this is just a first step, and what we need now is strong leadership and political will to ensure this delivers for the rising number of people with dementia in this country.

There are 4,000 people in this country under the age of 65 living with dementia for which tailored services are essential if they are to continue to live well in the community. We urgently require more Dementia Advisers to reach out and offer a vital lifeline of information to those diagnosed.

We want 2015 to be the year we open up the conversation about dementia in Ireland and the voice of the person with dementia must be heard. It’s time to think about how we talk about dementia and how we regard people with dementia and their carers.

Once people recognise the condition, they can be supported and have a better trajectory than people who are not.

The number of people with dementia is expected to increase significantly in the coming years; rising to 68,216 by 2021 and to 132,000 by 2041. It is a significant public health issue and lack of diagnosis and referral to the appropriate services needs to be vastly improved.

The hard work starts now.

Tina Leonard is Head of Advocacy and Public Affairs at the Alzheimer Society of Ireland.

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