More younger people will suffer from mental illness particularly dementia, the Alzheimer Society of Ireland claimed tonight.
The group warned that Alzheimer’s, a disease usually associated with old age, has affected as many as 3,500 people some in their 30s and 40s.
But Maurice O’Connell, chief executive of the organisation, said no special provisions were being made to help care for these people.
In a report to mark World Alzheimer’s Day the society called for a new focus on young people to help them live with the disease.
Mr O’Connell said the health service and other supports for the mentally ill were by-passing young people.
“This is because 9 out of 10 people with the condition are over 65 years of age and the younger patients are currently falling between the cracks,” he said.
“In half the cases, the person diagnosed with early-onset dementia is either the main or joint income provider which can result in severe financial strain for the family.
“Findings from this report clearly show that we need at least to be providing better financial supports, flexible care arrangements, more home care services and specialised respite and residential care facilities if we are to address this important issue.”
Around 24 million people across the globe have dementia and this is expected to double in the next 20 years, the society warned.
The society noted that young people with early-onset dementia and Alzheimer’s should be offered counselling in order to deal with the debilitating disease.
Experts pointed out that in half of cases the patient diagnosed is the main or joint breadwinner of the family, leaving many homes in a dire financial situation.
And they called for an end to the culture whereby those suffering from dementia were not informed of their illness, partly to reduce anxiety and distress. Dr O’Connell warned that this could add to the stigma.
The report launched by Minister for Health Mary Harney noted that 59% of younger people with dementia are living with their partners; with 15% having children under the age of 18 living at home.
The cause of Alzheimer’s is unknown and there is no cure.
It revealed the most important support structures outside the family are home help, home support often organised by the Alzheimer Society and access to a day care centre.