The National Dementia Strategy was launched in December 2014 to meet the challenges faced by the 55,000 people living with dementia in Ireland and to provide services to meet growing demand in future years. The Strategy contains 35 priority and additional actions and its implementation is being led by the National Dementia Office in the HSE. The office has made substantial progress towards developing evidence-based care pathways for people with dementia and progress to date, as well as future plans, is recorded in the mid-term review of the Strategy's implementation, which was published in May this year. The Strategy emphasises the need for a "whole community response" to dementia, as the majority of people with dementia live in their own communities and wish to avail of services in their local area.
In 2016 and 2017, the National Dementia Office partnered with the Alzheimer Society of Ireland on a project to map dementia-specific community-based services and supports. The project showed that the average number of community-based services in each Community Health Organisation was 35. Services provided in the community include dementia day care centres, a large proportion of which operate five days a week; dementia-specific homecare delivered by fully trained staff who are familiar with and understand the different symptoms and stages of dementia; dementia-friendly activities such as choirs and art gallery visits; dementia social clubs and Alzheimer Cafés; carer support groups; and dementia advisers. These services are provided by voluntary organisations and the HSE and partner organisations.
It is acknowledged that there are gaps in access to services and a large variance in what services are provided across the country. The National Dementia Office has met with senior HSE officials in each Community Healthcare Organisation region to highlight gaps in each area and to develop local action plans to improve service provision.
In addition to these community supports, in 2014 the HSE introduced Dementia-Specific Intensive Homecare Packages (Dementia-IHCPs) to test the feasibility of providing a high level of support to people with dementia with complex needs to facilitate them to remain living at home. These were initially co-funded by the HSE and the Atlantic Philanthropies and now fully funded by the HSE, which has committed to continue to provide approximately 120 packages at any one time. In addition to the IHCPs, people with dementia are also able to avail of standard home care services on the basis of need and within the resources available
The Department of Health secured €6.26 million through the 2016, 2017 and 2018 Dormant Accounts Fund Action Plans for a number of projects to improve care and supports for people with dementia. Projects receiving funding include the delivery of post-diagnostic supports; a dementia diagnostic service for people with intellectual disability; a national network of memory technology resource rooms; the development of a national dementia registry; the national rollout of a dementia training programme for HSE homecare staff; the development of dementia resource centres; funding for a dementia community activation coordinator; and community support projects for people with dementia.
In terms of plans to expand support levels for people with dementia, the level of funding available for the Department of Health in 2019 and the quantum of services to be provided by the HSE will be considered as part of the national Estimates and budgetary process and National Service Planning.
In July and September, I met with the Alzheimer Society of Ireland to discuss dementia priorities. I have also met with Senator Colette Kelleher, a former CEO of the ASI and advocate for people with dementia, to specifically discuss the needs of people with dementia. I remain willing to engage with advocacy groups on dementia issues as we continue to work towards improved care pathways and services for people with dementia, their carers and families.