With dementia’ does not exist here
it calmed her down, she loved combing the doll’s hair. I went to another house where the woman adored dogs but was no longer capable of looking after one, so we got her a battery-operated dog and that made a big difference to her quality of life. It’s about taking time to get to know the person and their likes and dislikes.”
McCann and Dr Meehan point out there is such fear and dread around the subject of dementia that most people do not want to think about it, never mind talk about it. additional respite services and home-help hours are vital in giving support to families who care for people with dementia in their own homes. They point out that there are very few dementia-specific beds available in the west of Ireland due to cuts in this area.
They also point to the need for a central point of contact for the person with dementia and their family, following diagnosis and through the early stage of the illness, who can provide advice and support. And to the vital need for a service for early-onset dementia.
“Caring for somebody with dementia is a journey, but so many people say they didn’t know where to turn after being given the diagnosis because the services are so fragmented,” says Dr Meehan.
“This comes up time and again in our carers’ groups. People should be given a card with contact details at the time of diagnosis when their care needs are so different from the mid and later stages of the disease.”
Dr Meehan has called for a one-stopshop dementia support centre for Galway, which would ideally house a medical team, social worker, occupational therapist, homecare support office, and legal adviser.
McCann notes: “One of the hardest things for people with dementia and their carers is that they have to fight so hard for support every step of the way.
“There is no question that the Fair Deal scheme should be extended to cover homecare, as most people, if given the choice, would chose to stay in their own home for as long as possible.”
Quality of life
Dr Meehan points out being cared for at home is not always possible, particularly where a dementia patient’s physical needs are high or where their behaviour is very challenging. In such cases, she says the whole set-up in a nursing home can make for a better quality of life for the patient.
“Thankfully, most people with dementia do not end up in an acute psychiatric unit, but there will always be a minority of patients who require inpatient care and this is another area that needs to be improved.
“People with dementia need their own space and need to be cared for by a core of properly trained people who can take care of their physical and mental-health needs,” she adds.
The newly opened acute adult mental-health unit at University Hospital Galway boasts a ward and specially dedicated staff for later-life patients who do require inpatient care.