Caring for people with dementia is considered one of the most challenging situations for caregivers. This is the conclusion of the authors of an expert paper prepared for the Alzheimer’s Society of Ireland, Creating Excellence in Dementia Care. In spite of the difficulties involved, the ASI says that home care results in a better quality of life for people living with dementia. It also saves governments untold sums of money. Researchers Cahill, O’Shea, and Pierce, the authors of the report, wrote that caregivers of people with dementia provided care that saved the Irish government about 807 million Euros in 2012.
Some of the savings, the Society says in its Pre-Budget Submission of 2015, should be devoted to community support for home-based caregivers and people living with dementia who are aging in place. About two-thirds of Ireland’s dementia population lives at home. Their lives would be made easier, say the researchers, if community services and support included day care, respite care, social clubs and dementia-specific trained help and other things. In fact, the needed services should be determined by caregivers and people with dementia themselves, the report asserts. After all, they are the first-hand experts on dementia care.
The cost of dementia care in Ireland was found to be similar to that of other developed countries. In dollars, it is upwards of two billion per year. Yet almost half of that value is provided by informal, uncompensated, voluntary home care given by family members and friends.
Long-term residential care accounts for another significant portion of money spent, nearly 50%. The social services sector in Ireland only bears about 9% of the total costs of dementia care. The report notes that those figures are also consistent with those of developed countries around the world.
Western Europe has very high numbers of people with dementia compared to other parts of the world, the Creating Excellence in Dementia Care report notes. Of the 35 million people worldwide suffering from dementia, 9 million are in Europe.
Although dementia has neither a known cause nor known cure, it is related to aging, with the risk rising each year after age 65. As Western Europe ages, dementia care will become an even greater challenge and problem. However, there is a positive aspect. The report notes that European countries with more aged populations than Ireland are undertaking national initiatives toward improved dementia care. In fact, these countries are world leaders in pioneering new frontiers in dementia care. The report cites Australia, the Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Scotland, England, France and Norway as world leaders in dementia care.
The report emphasizes that these advances are due to a person-centered approach—caregivers and dementia patients themselves are respected as full citizens, with full rights, including a great deal of self-determination. Respect for the choices of the individual, including and especially the dementia patients and their caregivers, have advanced care options and practices. There also exists the growing belief that home care with firm community support is among the most workable solutions.
The Creating Excellence in Dementia Care report also calls for increased access for lower income and poverty-stricken people to these services. Alzheimer’s and dementia are equal opportunity diseases and there is growing worldwide belief that people should be given equal opportunity to access necessary support to cope with these diseases at home.
Although the traditional luck of the Irish has not helped them escape the global plague of dementia, they are moving toward a serious and enlightened national plan to deal with this affliction based on the matured models of European countries. The Alzheimer’s Society of Ireland merits the luck for which its nation is known in continuing to cope compassionately and sensibly with the burden of dementia within its borders.
Alzheimer’s Society of Ireland (2015). Pre-Budget Submission 2015, Supporting Care in the Community: Living at Home as a First Option. Available online at http://www.alzheimer.ie/Alzheimer/media/SiteMedia/Fundraising/Camino/2014/PBS-web-2015.pdf.
Cahill, S., O’Shea, E. and Pierce, M. (2012) Creating Excellence in Dementia Care; A Research Review for Ireland’s National Dementia Strategy, TCD/NUIG. Available online at http://www.lenus.ie/hse/bitstream/10147/306721/1/CreatingExcellenceinDementiaCare2012.pdf.
Irish Health.com. (website. n.d., n.p.). People at Home with Dementia Need More Support. Available online at http://www.irishhealth.com/article.html?id=24966#.VS-6DOWwQ_g.twitter.