A fundraiser spearheaded by a Co Galway woman who lost her mother to dementia has raised €4,000 for a local Alzheimer charity.
Carmel Geoghegan from Oughterard organised the card drive and raffle with support from family, friends and businesses, at the weekend at her local golf club. It raised vital funds for Western Alzheimers, the organisation which had supported both she and her late mother Angela Geoghegan during her illness.
The event was in memory of Angela who had suffered from vascular dementia. Carmel was her primary carer and is keen now to heighten awareness about the disease and raise money for the charity which provides care and support to those living with the condition.
She would also like to be a voice for the diagnosed, carers, families and the wider communities who are all affected in some way when a diagnosis is given, she says. She is also keen to highlight end of life care, which is giving people the chance to live their lives pain-free and with dignity.
Ms Geoghegan points out that the funds raised at the weekend will give many hours of much needed comfort and friendship to dementia sufferers and their families. She is indebted to the people who helped her organise the event, especially PJ Burke, and all those who supported it.
“At present approximately 50,000 people have been diagnosed with dementia in Ireland and 5,000 - that’s 10 per cent of the overall figure - are concentrated in the west of Ireland in counties Mayo, Roscommon and Galway,” she says.
“This figure is set to treble in the next 20 years. Dementia is the umbrella term used for a range of symptoms, which manifest in a decline in intellectual functioning, caused by degenerative disease of the brain. The most common form is Alzheimer’s disease followed by vascular dementia, Lewy Body Dementia, Fronto-temporal Lobe Dementia and Pick’s Disease.”
When her mother was diagnosed it was “wonderful” to be able to ask for help and give her the best quality of life possible.
“Mum was very aware of what was happening all around her but her ability to cope was diminishing, her balance, speech and rational thinking were being affected.”
She says the palliative care service her mother received was a great comfort to her and it also helped her extended family and friends have “that special time” with her.
Writing in the internet news publication thejournal.ie she said: “This care makes life so much more comfortable for your loved one, so much more relaxed; everyone will have some understanding of what is happening and what the future holds. A palliative care approach gives insight into the stages ahead and what services are available.”
She stresses the importance of getting an early diagnosis but says there is still a taboo about dementia. She claims some GPs are reluctant to diagnose the condition and discuss the possibilities with their patients. Getting a diagnosis is a major step forward.
Ms Geoghegan is very grateful to Western Alzheimers for its support. She outlines it helps more than 500 families through its home help service, day care centres, respite and long term stay facility in Athenry. It does not receive government funding and depends on the generosity of fundraising and donations.
She points out that her fundraiser also aimed to highlight a one day conference on “Living with Dementia in Rural Ireland” which will take place in Galway on Monday May 30. The event is being run by Ms Geoghegan in conjunction with the Touchstone programme [a national programme aimed at developing the skills and knowledge of people aged 55 and over who wish to play a part in helping to make their communities more age-friendly] and The Institute for Lifecourse and Society (ILAS ), a newly designated research institute for the applied social sciences at NUI Galway.
She hopes the conference will provide a broader understanding of dementia and end-of-life care to the wider community, medical professional, and service provider.
“It will help to highlight some of the information tools available to those living with dementia, their carers, families and communities alike. Going forward the conference will be a step in empowering communities to live a better quality of life than they are currently experiencing.”