The anguish of dementia laid bare to councillors

In one of the most effecting presentations ever given in the chamber of Mayo County Council, the reality of living with a diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimers was laid out to the members of the council last Monday afternoon.

A delegation from Community Action on Dementia in Mayo were invited to address the council on their work and to deliver the presentation by Helen Rochford-Brennan (63 ) a former business woman from Tubbercurry in Sligo, who spoke of being diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimers.

Ms Rochford-Brennan explained how her memory had begun to slow and she wasn’t remembering things she had only read. “I went to see neurologists and geriatricans and last year I was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimers. I didn’t know what to think at the time. I had to drive home from Galway and tell my husband, I didn’t know how I was going to,” she said. “I stopped off on the way home in Knock and had a few words and it gave me the support I needed.”

The lack of services for people like her was the first thing that jumped out at her, following the diagnosis. She explained: “I had nowhere to go locally, but the internet to look at. I wish that someone was there to give me information and help about it.” She went on to explain that following talking to a nurse and getting involved with research and the national association she then began to tell her friends and family after only telling her family and one close friend initially. But people didn’t know how to react as they had no real information or idea about her condition. “They didn’t know how to react, some friends and neighbours, when they met me after they found out. I want to be part of the solution to this.”

Des Mulligan, regional manager of the Alzheimer’s Society of Ireland led the presentation informing the members that 1,600 in Mayo have been diagnosed with dementia alone and if nothing is done by 2041 141,000 people in the country are expected to be diagnosed with the disease.

He explained that Mayo was one of four counties selected for the Genio project, which will be funded initially for three years by the HSE and Atlantic Philanthropies. Community Action on Dementia in Mayo was this project. Community Action on Dementia in Mayo aim to facilitate people to live well with dementia and promote healthy living options and support.

They are hoping to start up a conversation county wide about dementia, and offer access and support to the people who need it and their families. They offer a memory clinic, where people who feel they may be having problems can have an evaluation, before being advised on the next steps to take. The also have a dementia advisor to assist people after diagnosis. More information on the project can be got by calling 094 902 7761 or logging on to


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