A newly published report from the charity Alzheimer’s Society has revealed more than three in five people affected by dementia in Northern Ireland struggled with too little support over the last year.
More than 20,000 people are living with dementia in Northern Ireland and people here are more likely to get a diagnosis than anywhere else in the UK.
The ‘Left to Cope Alone: The unmet support needs after a dementia diagnosis’ report revealed more than three in five (66.7%) of people affected by dementia in Northern Ireland did not feel they had received enough support in the last 12 months.
Another survey of 1,000 people affected by dementia showed that more than half (54%) of family carers reached a crisis point in the last year alone with families having no idea of the support available.
“No family affected by dementia should face it alone,” said Bernadine McCrory, country director for Alzheimer’s Society in Northern Ireland.
“Post diagnostic dementia support is unequal, inadequate, and inconsistent, leaving families without the necessary care they need to get through some of the hardest and most frightening times of their lives.”
Alzheimer’s Society has said people with dementia are at risk of going to the hospital with avoidable conditions such as falls and urinary tract infections and this puts unnecessary pressure on the NHS.
The charity is now calling for every care network to use the government’s funding for support roles in primary care to provide at least one dementia support worker in their area to help.
The support workers would act as the “missing link between people affected by dementia” and support them after they receive their diagnosis.
Their roles would be to help with daily tasks, fall prevention, going to community groups and talking therapy to improve wellbeing and prevent mental health crises.
“People tell us that a lack of dedicated support means they are relying on the internet to find out about their condition, or that the wellbeing of their loved one with dementia depends on how well they’re ‘doing their homework to find support.
“Family carers are at a breaking point trying to make sure their loved ones are safe and cared for while trying to maintain some quality of life.
“Dementia support workers provide a crucial link between the 900,000 people living with dementia — including the 22,000 in Northern Ireland — and post-diagnostic support, and they are incredibly cost-effective — every £1 spent results in £4 worth of benefits” said McCrory.
The report also points to factors such as the Covid-19 pandemic which impacted access to support across Northern Ireland and left many people with dementia to deteriorate faster than expected.
In a survey of over 1,000 people affected by dementia, over eight in 10 (84%) reported a decline in the health and wellbeing of their loved one over the past year, and over one in four (27%) to an unmanageable level.
Alzheimer’s Society employs 719 front-line staff across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, including Dementia Advisers and Dementia Support Workers.
They ask that anyone who is seeking advice or support on dementia to telephone the Alzheimer’s Society on 0333 150 3456 or visit the website alzheimers.org.uk.