With de­men­tia’ does not ex­ist here

The Irish Times - Tuesday - Health - - Health | Dementia -

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.

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