Local carers’ associations condemn ‘hidden health crisis’

The Regional Alzheimer Society and Local Carers Association have slammed the “eye-opening” findings of RTÉ Prime Time Investigates, which has found that more than 82 per cent of family carers have been affected by cutbacks in State services and are living in poverty.

Des Mulligan, regional manager for the Alzheimer Society of Ireland slammed “the real lack of adequate community-based facilities for dementia patients in Ireland”, and said that the government must make dementia an immediate national “health priority”. The centre manager of the Carers’ Association in Mayo, Eileen McNamara, has said that family carers “have taken as much as they can”.

‘2,000 dementia sufferers in Mayo’

Statistics show that currently there are 40,000 people in Ireland suffering with dementia. Those over 65 have a one in 10 chance of developing dementia and 10 per cent of Alzheimer suffers are under 65. Predicted figures of those affected with this illness rise as high as 104,000 nationwide in 2036. In Mayo, Mr Mulligan said that “there are approximately 2,000 dementia patients”, which corresponds to about 2,500 to 3,000 carers.

The Alzheimer Society, the leading provider of dementia specific supports and services nationally, has 33 day care centres nationwide. One such facility is the Castlebar Day Care Centre, which is located in a new facility which opened in April, in Snugborough, Newport Road, Castlebar.

However, due to lack of funding there is no home care service in the county and the day care facility, which can care for 10 patients, is currently only operating for three days a week.

Currently the Alzheimer Association receives just under 70 per cent funding from the HSE, while the rest is raised through fundraising campaigns such as the National Tea Day and upcoming Cuba Cycle in November (more information on www.alzheimer.ie ).

The Castlebar centre is hosting an Open Day on Friday June 17, an event planned during National Carers’ Week. During that day from 11am to 3pm, Mr Mulligan said that carers and families can see the services which are provided at the centre and they will be given information on dementia, on supports and courses for family carers, and health checks for carers will also be provided by Staunton’s Pharmacy. A hoist demonstration and other equipment from HomeCare Medical will be on display that day and most importantly the Open Day “will also enable carers to share their stories with each other over some light refreshments”. For directions to the centre you can contact: 094 902 7761.

‘Hardship is commonplace’

Ms McNamara, from the local Carers’ Association, said in response to the Prime Time programme, “This investigative report completely backs up our own findings that many family carers are living in poverty and very difficult circumstances with these cutbacks. Families are literally skipping meals to keep their heads above water. Viewers may be shocked by the report’s findings but The Carers’ Association is already aware that this kind of hardship is commonplace for many family carers.”

The centre manager added: “Just this week we heard from a family carer in Dublin who, when requesting more incontinence pads for her mother, was told to monitor her mother’s liquid intake and output to assess whether she merited the additional pads. This isn’t the first time this issue has arisen and is the source of much unnecessary stress for family carers and those they care for.” Ms McNamara said that this is now a call for action as “family carers have taken as much as they can”.

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