Wednesday 18 September 2019

Stigma of dementia is 'leaving families isolated'

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Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

The stigma and embarrassment felt by sufferers of dementia and their families are revealed in a new survey.

The findings, which come as a new awareness campaign gets under way, show just over half of people would accept a person with dementia as a close friend, while some 44pc were unsure or unwilling.

It found 39pc of people know little or nothing at all about dementia. Just one-quarter of adults had a reasonable understanding of the condition.

Two in five did not know dementia was caused by a range of different diseases of the brain. More than half were unaware there are steps they can take to minimise the risks of developing the condition.

When asked about barriers to seeking help for dementia, one in six suggested they might be too scared to do so.

There are an estimated 55,000 people living with dementia in Ireland today and this number is expected to more than double to 113,000 by 2036.

The survey was launched as a new campaign 'Dementia: Understand Together' was announced by the HSE. Two people who suffer from dementia, Maureen O'Hara and Paddy Butler, will feature in television ads.


Ms O'Hara (57), from Clongowen, Kilkenny, who was diagnosed with young onset dementia in 2014, said staying connected with neighbours and friends was all-important.

It helped her live well and independently with the condition. "For me the diagnosis wasn't a shock as I had been living it. It was nearly a relief to know," she said.

Mr Butler (70), also from Kilkenny, who was diagnosed with dementia due to Alzheimer's disease in recent years, said it is important to be up-front with people.

"When I was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, at the start, I didn't know what I was doing, what was happening," he said.

"I asked myself 'do I hide it or do I be straight up'? Kilkenny is a small place and I know a lot of people. I decided I had to go and face it and to be straight with people. Trying to hide things would have been worse. It should be out there. More people talk to me now than before and everyone says 'hello' when I pass by. It's important to show that people with Alzheimer's can keep going."

Psychiatrist Professor Brian Lawlor said the embarrassment around dementia can leave people with dementia and their loved ones feeling alone.

Irish Independent

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