Dementia remains ‘hidden disease’
AROUND 4,000 people are being diagnosed with dementia every year but it remains a largely hidden and largely invisible disease, a new report warned yesterday.
The report found that the diagnosis of dementia was the exception rather than the rule for those who lived at home, as opposed to in care.
There are now an estimated 41,700 with dementia in Ireland, but this is likely to more than triple to 147,000 by 2041.
Nearly 9pc of those are suffering early onset dementia and 26,000 are being cared for in their own homes, although most would never have got a formal diagnosis.
The report, Creating Excellence in Dementia Care: A Research Review for Ireland’s National Dementia Strategy, was drawn up by researchers in Trinity College, St James’s Hospital and the Irish Centre for Social Gerontology at NUI Galway.
A national strategy for dementia is promised by the Government, and Health Minister James Reilly admitted the disease would create a huge burden for the State.
The average cost per person with dementia is around ˆ40,500, but more money needs to be spent, including additional investment in training for GPs who may miss the symptoms.
Tips: Helping minimise discomfort and distress
The reasons for these types of behaviour are not always clear, but they may be partly due to the progress of dementia and partly due to distress. There are several things to consider that may help:
Make sure that the person’s spectacles are clean and hearing aid is functioning properly, if they use these.
Check whether the person’s medication is appropriate or whether they might be ill or in discomfort (see ‘Health risks’ below).
Check that they are not being overstimulated or disturbed by too many people, too much activity, harsh lights, loud noises or abrupt movements.
Consider whether they may be understimulated. Gentle activities such as a hand massage, listening to favourite music or stroking a soft piece of fabric may help.
Most importantly, make sure the person is comfortable − for example, not too hot or too cold, hungry or thirsty, or needing the toilet.
There are 50,000 people caring for a loved one who has at least one of the six specified dementia symptoms.
Trinity Associate Professor Suzanne Cahill said: “Across Europe, much progress has been made in mobilising joint action in the fight against dementia, (but) dementia remains hidden and largely invisible in Ireland and is a hugely underfunded and underprioritised health issue in the country.”
She added: “In Ireland, early diagnosis, and sometimes any diagnosis, is the exception rather than the rule.
“Irish GPs, like their European counterparts, experience difficulty diagnosing this illness and would welcome more training and resources.”
Dr Reilly described dementia as a “tragedy” for families.
– Eilish O’Regan Health Correspondent