Around 11 people are diagnosed with dementia every day in Ireland. There are 55,000 living with the condition and the number is expected to more than double to 113,000 by 2036, writes.
However, it has emerged just one in four people are confident they understand dementia and almost half are unsure whether they could stay friends with someone with dementia.
A new campaign led by the HSE, launched yesterday, called ‘Dementia: Understand Together’, aims to increase understanding and support for people living with the symptoms.
At the launch in Dublin, Health Minister Simon Harris said the television, radio, and online advertising campaign would help “demystify” dementia and address the loneliness often experienced by people living with dementia and their families.
“About 11 people in this country each and every day are diagnosed with dementia so I think it is really important that, as a society, we create a greater understanding of it,” he said.
The minister said he was determined to build on the success of the National Dementia Strategy next year with the establishment of a dementia register.
He said the HSE had started providing intensive homecare specific packages — 140 were in place and more would be allocated next year.
Mr Harris said they planned to provide additional funding for the implementation of the National Dementia Strategy.
“We have committed €27m worth of funding for the rollout of home care,” he said.
Two people living with dementia agreed to be featured in the first phase of the television campaign.
Maureen O’Hara, 57, a retired mother of two grown-up children from Clongowen, Kilkenny, who appears in one of the advertisements, was diagnosed with Young Onset Dementia in 2014.
The support the former physiotherapist and keen hillwalker receives from neighbours and friends allows her to live well and independently with dementia.
“What’s most important for me is being connected with people,” she said. “It’s about being out there — whether that’s enjoying hillwalking or keeping touch with neighbours and friends.”
Ms O’Hara urged people not to be apprehensive about approaching and talking to her or other people with dementia.
“Just act normal,” she said. “Don’t be afraid to greet me as you usually would. I might not remember your name but I will remember faces and I will remember a feeling of being with you.”
Paddy Butler, 70, and also from Kilkenny, was diagnosed with dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease in recent years. He had become more forgetful and knew he had to face up to it.
“I would tell everyone with Alzheimer’s to just keep going,” said Mr Butler.
“For me, that was going for my walks or going up to Dublin for the matches. You have to carry on and live your life.”
His wife, Linsey, said the best support people could give Paddy was to respect his space to be his own person.
“He’s not an eejit, he just communicates a lot differently than he used to,” she said. “He might understand a conversation differently and his response times are different but he is still the same person.”