There are 55,000 people with dementia in Ireland, which number is set to more than double in the next two decades. Approximately 50,000 people are carers, albeit the true number may be three times higher. Dementia is a progressive condition and, as such, it needs different responses from the time of initial diagnosis right through to a person's death. It is possible to live well with dementia, in particular at earlier stages when a little support goes a long way. The progression of dementia can take decades and, at the advanced stages, sufferers and their carers need a great deal of care and support. Like other long-term chronic conditions such as stroke, heart disease and cancer, dementia requires special attention and must have its own claim on the public purse.
I am co-convenor, along with Deputy Butler, of the all-party Oireachtas group on dementia, and the membership includes Senators Devine, Hopkins, Humphreys and Byrne, all of whom are active Members of the House. There was an opportunity in budget 2019 to put real money into the range of supports people with dementia and their carers need to live well with dementia and to die well too. The Government could have prioritised closing the dementia gap revealed in the HSE's mapping exercise which was published earlier this year and broken down on a county-by-county basis by the Alzheimer Society of Ireland. For example, there are approximately 4,000 people with dementia and 12,000 carers in my native Cork where an investment of approximately €500,000 is required to give people living with dementia a minimum level of support.
The Government should be investing in the development of a national network of dementia advisers. A recent evaluation undertaken by UCC and published by the HSE supported wholeheartedly the development of such a network, embedded in primary care. Deputy Butler and I saw such a network first-hand on our visit to Scotland. We have seven dementia advisers nationally at the moment but we need approximately 90 if we are to have one in every primary care network. If Scotland can afford such a network to provide invaluable support at the point of diagnosis and beyond to people with dementia and their carers, why can Ireland not have that network too?
We need to shift away from total reliance on residential homes for the long-term care of people with dementia and to develop home care as an alternative and complement to nursing home provision. When asked, people and their carers have said time and again that they prefer home care to nursing homes. However, home care is just not possible. Due to lack of home care, people cannot be discharged from unsuitable hospital beds which cost the State in excess of €300,000 each per year. We also spent €1 billion on long-term residential care in Ireland.
Budget 2019 is an opportunity to allocate resources to provide a down payment of €100 million in new funding for home care. As such, I was disappointed that dementia was not specifically mentioned in the Budget Statement of the Minister for Finance, Deputy Donohoe, although I welcomed Deputy Cowen's response calling for significantly increased homecare packages, funds to develop a national network of dementia advisers and the expectation that we might see specific commitments on these in the HSE's service plan.
I ask the Leader to invite Minister for Health, Deputy Harris, or Minister of State, Deputy Jim Daly, to come before the House to make statements about what resources exactly have been set aside in budget 2019 to fund closing the service gaps for people with dementia and their carers in every county, the development of a national network of dementia advisers and a significant investment of new money in home care. I want the Minister to put on record that all those specific commitments regarding dementia will appear prominently and clearly in the HSE's service plan for 2019.
Tomorrow is the third anniversary of the fire at Carrickmines. I pay my respects to those who perished in that fire.