I have long been an advocate for the development of services for people with dementia and their families and this is representative in the focused investment in these supports and services in recent years. A key commitment of the Programme for Government is to continue implementing the National Dementia Strategy with an aim of improving dementia supports and services so that people living with dementia can live well for as long as possible.
Building on the increased investment made in 2021 in community based dementia services, I secured an additional €7.3 million in budget 2022 for dementia services. Further developments will focus on the areas of memory assessment and support services, memory technology resource rooms, the implementation of a dementia registry and the national intellectual disability memory service.
In addition the proportion of new home support hours that will be ring-fenced for people with dementia will more than double from 5% in 2021 to 11% in 2022. Taken together, this will represent €15 million of increased investment dedicated to dementia in 2022 to supplement the €12.9 million of additional funding in 2021.
Funding in 2021 allowed for substantial advancements in the areas of:
- Enhanced Memory Technology Resource Rooms in 9 sites across the country
- Dementia diagnostic services through a specialist regional memory clinic in Cork and four new memory assessment and support services in Mayo, Wexford, Waterford and Sligo
- Enhancement of acute care pathways for people with dementia through the recruitment of more clinical nurse specialists
- The implementation of a National Clinical Guideline on the appropriate prescribing of psychotropic medication for non-cognitive symptoms in people with dementia
- Increased access to in-home day care and support and
- Dementia: Understand Together initiatives
In addition, in November 2021 I officially launched an expansion of the National Dementia Advisor Service. The Dementia Adviser Service provides a key focal point to help people navigate the health and social care system, ensuring they receive the right support at the right time. I was delighted to secure funding for 11 new dementia advisers in 2021, to expand this vital service. This brought the total number of dementia advisers to 28 nationally.
In relation to the projected increase in the numbers of people living with dementia, a national risk reduction working group was co-convened by the National Dementia Office and HSE Health and Wellbeing. This group will run a campaign as part of Brain Health Awareness month in March and has collated important information on brain health from the recent public attitudes survey on dementia. In addition, a Brain Health project manager post will commence in 2022 to support the delivery of actions from this group and support national campaigns and programmes to incorporate dementia risk reduction.
It is estimated that up to 40% of dementia prevalence worldwide is preventable. The national risk reduction working group published a document titled “key messages on dementia risk reduction” in 2019. Identified risk factors for dementia include smoking, obesity, diabetes, sedentary lifestyle, depression, social isolation, alcohol etc. National campaigns (such as Quit smoking; askaboutalcohol; mental health campaigns; healthy eating and active living) all help to address the risk factors that are associated with dementia.
In addition, key messaging on brain health and risk reduction have been incorporated as part of dementia awareness training, within the Dementia Understand Together in Communities programme. The Memory Assessment and Support Services funded in 2021 and 2022 as part of the National Service Plan will have a dedicated Advanced Nurse Practitioner (ANP) for brain health. A further service that will also be of interest in relation to Brain Health is Tallaght University Hospital’s Brain Health Service which runs as part of their Specialist Memory Service.