Belfast Telegraph

Dementia numbers in Western Trust rise by a third as charity makes call for greater support

Dementia levels have sharply risen in the western part of Northern Ireland over the last four years, a new analysis of health data has revealed
Dementia levels have sharply risen in the western part of Northern Ireland over the last four years, a new analysis of health data has revealed

By John Breslin

Dementia levels have sharply risen in the western part of Northern Ireland over the last four years, a new analysis of health data has revealed.

The number on the dementia register in the Western Health Trust area has risen by a third between 2015 and 2019, according to figures compiled by the BBC's Local Democracy Reporting Service.

This covers Limavady, Londonderry, Strabane, Omagh and Fermanagh.

Across Northern Ireland, the number on the register is 14,626, up from 13,221, an increase of 10.6% over the period.

Experts believe the diagnosis rate to be 67%, meaning more than 20,000 people here are estimated to suffer from dementia.

An increase in reporting and the ageing population are the reasons cited by experts for the growth in numbers.

Linda Robinson, chief executive of Age NI, said increasingly better services and greater public awareness has led to more people being diagnosed earlier, but this does mean more people facing pressure, financially and otherwise.

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"One of the areas of great need is urgent attention to the financial support for carers," Ms Robinson said. "The majority of the work is done by those carers. Financial support has not been the subject of any independent study into what it actually costs for an individual and their families."

Across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the number of people on the register has risen by 40% to around 508,000.

The Western Health Trust area had 2,791 on the register in March 2019, up from 2,093 in 2015, an increase of 33.35%.

In the Belfast Trust area, the number of people on the register rose from 3,034 to 3,278, an increase of 8.04%.

The South Eastern Trust area recorded a rise of 9.34% from 2,612 to 2,856.

The number rose from 3,145 to 3,297, or 4.83%, in the Northern Trust, and from 2,337 to 2,424, an increase of 3.72%, in the Southern Trust area. The cost pressures has led to a "ridiculous lottery" where people suffering can lose their life savings and homes, according to the Alzheimer's Society.

"Across the board, we are seeing increasing numbers of people living with dementia and simply not enough support is being provided," Ewan Russell, head of policy and campaigns at the Alzheimer's Society, said.

Everyone with savings or income above £23,250 is expected to pay their own care fees for residential and nursing homes.

Those under the threshold do receive some support, but the standard amount for nursing care is £165.56 a week.

The society notes that a report published this week by the London School of Economics predicts the number of those living with dementia will have doubled by 2040 and costs will treble to an estimated £94bn over the same period.

"Families are bearing two thirds of the costs of dementia care. With more people getting it, we do not think that that is sustainable at all," Mr Russell said.

"The Government has to step in and boost support. It is a ridiculous lottery that people with dementia can lose their homes and savings and that has to end."

The Health and Social Care Board said it has "invested significantly in service improvements within dementia care".

"Public awareness campaigns, staff recruitment and training and redesign of direct care services has led to better dementia care services and support," an HSC spokesperson said.

The spokesperson added: "The HSC is currently working to implement the Regional Dementia Care Pathway which will provide information, support, care and treatment for the full life journey of the dementia from initial concerns through to palliative and end of life care."

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