Written Answers. - Alzheimer's Disease.

Jim Higgins

Question:

113 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Minister for Health the total number of patients currently suffering from Alzheimer's disease; whether residential day care and respite services are available in each case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1027/94]

Question:

124 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Health his views on whether the families of Alzheimers sufferers have available to them the necessary resources and back up services to cater for the patients needs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1028/94]

Godfrey Timmins

Question:

140 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Health the number of locations at which residential day or respite care is available for Alzheimer sufferers; the extent to which it is proposed to improve this service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [987/94]

I propose to answer Questions Nos. 113, 124 and 140 together.

Estimates indicated that the number of people with a significant form of dementia in this country, including Alzheimer's disease is between 20,000 and 30,000.

The report, The Years Ahead — A Policy for the Elderly stressed the need to develop a range of services for people with dementia and their families, including purpose built accommodation. The report was adopted as official Government policy towards the elderly. Between 1990 and 1992 an additional £9 million was made available to the health services to implement the key recommendations of the report, including the strengthening of home and community support for people with dementia and their families. The investment by boards in additional community nursing, day care and respite services has increased the support available to suffers of Alzheimer's disease and their carers. The care of those with dementia is clearly emerging as a priority for many boards, a development which I fully support. All eight health boards have indicated that they have locations at which residential, day or respite care is available for Alzheimer sufferers though not all of these centres are dedicated exclusively to Alzheimer patients.

In 1994, funding is being made available to provide specialist services for those with dementia in South-East Dublin, Limerick and Cork. It is hoped that these services will be in operation before the end of the year or early next year. Also in 1994, I was happy to be able to approve a grant of £20,000 from national lottery funds to the Alzheimer Society of Ireland to help towards their national development plan.

The Health (Nursing Homes) Act, 1990, which commenced on 1 September 1993 widens the options available to those caring for dependent relatives with dementia. Under the Act, health boards may pay a subvention towards the cost of care in a nursing home of a person who needs that care and who does not have the resources to pay the cost.
The reportCaring without Limits which was published by the Alzheimer Society in July last year provides an important insight into the lives of those who bear the brunt of Alzheimer disease — the carers. I was pleased that my Department allocated a grant to the Alzheimer Society to enable this important research to be carried out. This report reflects the views expressed in The Years Ahead, namely that if carers are to continue giving care without intolerable cost to their own lives, more assistance is required from the health services for their support.
The Government has expanded the eligibility criteria for the carer's allowance in recognition of the burden on relatives of caring for dependent elderly people such as those with dementia. As Minister for Health I am very conscious of the contribution made by carers to the maintenance of dependent people in their own homes, and I will continue to encourage health boards to develop and extend support services for these informal carers, whether by services in the home or by way of respite care in a hospital or nursing home.