Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire. Ba mhaith liom labhairt inniu ar ghalar speisialta, galar uafásach. Is galar é nach bhfuil mórán eolais faoi sa tír agus, ag an am céanna, tá sé ag déanamh andochair agus an-scriosta agus is rud antruamhéileach é. Is galar é gur beag cainte atá déanta faoi. Tá mé ag ceapadh sna laethanta atá anois ann go bhfuil seans ann rud éigin a dhéanamh faoin ghalar uafásach ar a dtugtar Alzheimer's Disease.
This disease was discovered in 1908 by Dr. Alzheimer agus aisteach go leor it is a disease that could only be diagnosed on an autopsy. There is no way of finding the disease but by a series of eliminations in regard to patients' symptoms; sa tslí sin tá tú in ann an galar seo a aithint.
Tá go leor leor airgid caite ag daoine príobháideacha. Private institutions and private people who are interested in this disease down through the years have spent an enormous amount of money to try to find the causes of Alzheimers. Go dtí an lá atá inniu ann níl a fhios acu cinnte, ach by the process of elimination bíonn siad in ann teacht ar an chúis. Meastar anois sa tír seo go bhfuil idir 20,000 agus 30,000 duine go bhfuil galar Alzheimer orthu. If there are between 20,000 and 30,000 people suffering from Alzheimers Disease there must be added to the list 20,000 to 30,000 carers who have to look after those people.
Is aisteach an rud é ach ar fud an domhain níl an t-uafás eolais faoi. An chéad rud a tharlaíonn san Alzheimer's Disease ná go gcliseann ar an inchinn, brain failure, mar a thugtar air i mBéarla. Ní dochtúir mise, níl aon bhaint agam le leigheas, ach an fáth gur chuir mé suim sa scéal seo ó thús ná gur tháining mé trasna ar dhaoine atá ag fulaingt an ghalair uafásaigh seo. Strangely enough, my pity is turned more towards the carer than the sufferer, because it is a disease the sufferer is not aware of go bunúsach, ach an duine atá ag tabhairt aire don té atá tinn, he is aware of it daily and nightly year in and year out. One of the first symptoms of the disease is loss of personality. Cailleann daoine lúth na gcos, níl siad in ann aire a thabhairt dóibh féin ó thaobh chúrsaí leithris de. They fail to recognise people. Ag deireadh thiar, ní bhíonn acu ach cúpla focal. They lose their speech. It is described by many people as a living death, bás ina bheatha.
Tá iarrachtaí á ndéanamh ar fud na tíre gníomh éigin a dhéanamh faoi seo. Tá an Alzheimer's Society of Ireland bunaithe ó 1984 mar chomhlacht carthanachta, a friendly society. Is iad na haidhmeanna atá ag an gcumann seo ná cúnamh a thabhairt do dhaoine a bhfuil an galar seo orthu.
I would like especially to make representations on behalf of the Alzheimers Society who want to be recognised as a legitimate body in the health services. Basically, they are involved in providing comfort and alleviation of pain and stress both to the sufferers and the carers. Tá mé ag iarraidh ar Bhord Sláinte an Iarthair, the Western Health Board, in which I have an interest and all health boards to take this into consideration and look after Alzheimers sufferers in a more specific way. Mar a dúirt mé cheana, the greatest stress is to the carers of victims, because the victims are generally unaware of their sufferings, but the carers are. The carers see the people they look after, usually relations or friends losing all sense of time and place. Alzheimers Disease can last from two to 20 years. The carers see the mental faculties of the sufferers deteriorating year after year and day after day until many of those patients become just like vegetables. To all intents and purposes, as far as the carers are concerned, they have a bereavement on their hands long before a clinical death takes place.
I put forward this motion to ask the Minister for Health to approve new structures so that amendment of the Health Act can take place to enable Alzheimers sufferers and their carers to be properly looked after. Tá sé ráite go bhfuil 7 faoin gcéad de na daoine atá os cionn 65 bliana d'aois, 7 per cent of the over 65s, and 20 per cent of the over 80s, suffer from one form or other of dementia, and 75 per cent of dementia cases are Alzheimers sufferers. Tá obair á déanamh agus tá a fhios agam go bhfuil an tAire Sláinte, an Teachta O'Hanlon, báúil don Alzheimer's Society agus gur mhaith leis cúnamh a thabhairt ar bhealach amháin nó ar bhealach eile. Tá gníomhartha áirithe go bhféadfadh an Stát a dhéanamh agus tá sé thar am don Stát iad a dhéanamh. Tá deacracht ann go dtí seo.
There is no special category in the Health Act, 1970 which recognises an Alzheimers sufferer. They are recognised either as a psychiatric patient. Má théann tú siar go Gaillimh, as you go to Béal Átha na Slua, which is a mental institution, you will find many Alzheimer's patients. That is not where they should be sent. There should be proper institutional and special care provided for Alzheimer's sufferers. There is general goodwill and heartfelt feeling to do something about this problem. At a recent meeting with some Western Health Board officials I was told they intend in the long term, setting up a programme for Alzheimer's sufferers. That is a welcome advancement as far as the Western Health Board are concerned. I would like to think that their example will be followed in all health boards and I ask the Minister to ensure that such a movement takes place as soon as possible. We must, first of all, recognise the disease and, secondly, ensure that a short-term respite centre is provided.
I know a young man from Connemara who got Alzheimer's Disease at 48 years of age. He is now completely immobile and his wife has looked after him day and night for the last seven years. Seeing how that woman cared for her husband at home spurred me on to do something to enable her, for example, to have a respite centre where she could leave her husband for three or four days so that she could have a break. The health boards do not provide such care at present. Tá sé fíorthábhachtach that we would recognise that.
The Alzheimer's Society have broken new ground in Temple Hill, Blackrock in south Dublin. The Daughters of Charity have put at the disposal of the Alzheimer's Society a building which they have converted into a day centre and a respite centre. This centre can accommodate 20 Alzheimer's patients who have been assessed. That is all done on a voluntary basis. It is not done under the Eastern Health Board but by the Alzheimer's Society. It is the only centre in the whole of Dublin to serve a population of one million people. If we take the statistics where 7 per cent of the over 65s and 20 per cent of the over 80s are suffering from Alzheimers disease there must be many Alzheimer's sufferers in Dublin city who will never receive any day care and many carers who will never have any respite. Therefore it is important that the Department of Health address this problem.
On a recent visit to the day centre in Temple Hill I was delighted and amazed to see the work that is being carried out there on a voluntary basis, without any State funding. I would like to see that continued on a voluntary basis but the State should ensure that those voluntary efforts are sustained in years to come. It was a revelation to see the way those people are looked after in the centre. There is no reason for not having at least one — to start with — day centre and respite centre like that in every health board area. In the Western Health Board area I would like to see such centres set up in Castlebar, Roscommon and Galway city. We are working towards that and we hope to have one available by October next with the help of the Western Health Board, who have been very co-operative and are willng to help us to get started.
The Department of Health should become more involved and made more aware of the type and number of sufferers involved, and help should be forthcoming, do na daoine bochta seo, agus níl mé ag caint faoin bhfocal "bocht" sa chiall a thuigimidne "bocht". It is an extraordinary disease. It is not part of the Health Act. It is a disease like brain or heart failure or any other failure in the body. It has not been recognised as such by the State. When I say "recognised" I do not say that they have not admitted that such a thing exists, but helping the carers and the provision of space for the sufferers is not on the agenda of any health board. Níor mhaith liomsa níos mó a rá faoi mar ba mhaith le mo chara anseo, an Seanadóir O'Reilly, cúpla focal a rá faoi. He would like to say a few words.