Every year, on the 21st of September, we celebrate World Alzheimer’s Day. This day is dedicated to raising awareness about Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, emphasising the need for support, understanding, and research to combat this debilitating condition. In this blog post, we will explore what World Alzheimer’s Day is all about, delve into the definition of Alzheimer’s, its characteristics, and its relation to dementia. We will also shed light on why Alzheimer’s is an increasingly important topic in Irish society, as well as the services and supports available for individuals living with the disease in Ireland.
What is World Alzheimer’s Day?
World Alzheimer’s Day, celebrated annually on September 21st, is an international campaign to raise awareness and challenge the stigma surrounding Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. It was established by Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) in 1994 to unite people and organisations worldwide in the fight against dementia. The date, September 21st, was chosen to coincide with the autumnal equinox, symbolising the need for awareness to grow as the world’s population ages.
The campaign firstly aims to educate the public about Alzheimer’s and dementia, provide support to those affected, and advocate for increased research funding. Secondly, it’s a day for individuals and communities to come together, share their experiences, and pledge their commitment to improving the lives of people living with dementia, their loved ones, and their carers.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, accounting for approximately 60-70% of all dementia cases worldwide. Dementia is not a single disease but a broad term used to describe a range of cognitive impairments that interfere with a person’s daily life. Alzheimer’s is characterised by the progressive decline in cognitive functions, such as memory, thinking, and behaviour. It typically starts with mild memory problems and gradually worsens over time.
Characteristics of Alzheimer’s
One of the most noticeable signs of Alzheimer’s is memory loss, especially short-term memory. Individuals may forget recent conversations, appointments, or the names of family members and friends.
Alzheimer’s affects thinking skills, making it difficult for individuals to solve problems, plan, and make decisions. They may also have trouble with tasks that require concentration.
People with Alzheimer’s often struggle to find the right words in conversations, write coherently, or follow a conversation’s flow.
Individuals may become disoriented about time and place, getting lost in familiar surroundings or not recognising familiar faces.
Alzheimer’s can cause mood swings, irritability, and changes in personality. People with the disease may become anxious, agitated, or withdrawn.
Difficulty with Daily Activities
As the disease progresses, individuals may find it challenging to perform everyday tasks like dressing, bathing, and eating.
Loss of Independence
Ultimately, Alzheimer’s leads to a loss of independence, with individuals requiring increasing levels of assistance and care.
Why Alzheimer’s is an Important Topic in Irish Society
Alzheimer’s disease is a pressing issue in Irish society due to its increasing prevalence and the significant impact it has on individuals, families, and healthcare systems. This trend will only continue to increase in the coming years due to Ireland’s ageing population.
According to statistics from Understand Together:
Prevalence: In Ireland, an estimated 64,000 people are living with dementia, and this number is expected to double by 2036. This means that more families will be affected by Alzheimer’s in the coming years.
Carer Impact: Alzheimer’s places a substantial burden on carers, who are often family members. In Ireland, there are approximately 50,000 carers providing unpaid care to people with dementia, contributing significantly to the healthcare system.
Economic Impact: The cost of caring for individuals with dementia in Ireland is substantial, estimated to be around €1.69 billion per year. This includes healthcare costs, formal and informal caregiving, and lost productivity.
Quality of Life: Dementia can have a profound impact on the quality of life for individuals living with the condition and their families. It is vital to raise awareness and improve support services to enhance the well-being of those affected.
Services for Individuals in Ireland
Ireland has made significant strides in addressing the challenges posed by Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Several services and organisations are available to support individuals and their families:
Understand Together: Understand Together is a public support campaign in Ireland that aims to raise awareness about dementia, reduce stigma, and provide information and resources to those affected. Their website offers a wealth of information and guidance for individuals, carers, and other healthcare professionals.
Understand Together also recently developed and launched a new community symbol with people with dementia at its heart. By displaying the symbol in our communities, we hope to raise awareness for the condition. Understand Together also want to show solidarity with the more than 64,000 people living with the condition in Ireland. You can read more about it on our website here.
Alzheimer Society of Ireland: This organisation provides a range of services, including dementia-specific home care, day care, support groups, and information services. They also offer respite care to provide carers with a much-needed break.
Memory Clinics: Memory clinics across Ireland provide assessments, diagnosis, and support for individuals with memory concerns. Early diagnosis can help individuals access appropriate care and support.
Primary Care: Primary care teams play a crucial role in the management of dementia. GPs, nurses, and other healthcare professionals like Comfort Keepers carers provide ongoing care, medication management, and support to individuals and their families.
How Comfort Keepers Can Help
Comfort Keepers is an organisation dedicated to providing in-home care and support services to individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia in Ireland. Their services are tailored to meet the unique needs of each individual. They focus on promoting independence, enhancing quality of life, and providing respite to family carers.
Here’s how companies like Comfort Keepers can help:
Personalised Care Plans: Create personalised care plans for individuals with dementia, taking into account their specific needs, preferences, and routines.
Cognitive Stimulation: Carers engage individuals in activities that stimulate cognitive function and memory. These help to slow the progression of the disease.
Assistance with Daily Activities: Assistance with activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, and meal preparation, ensuring individuals can live comfortably and safely at home.
Respite Care: Family carers often need a break to rest and recharge. Companies like Comfort Keepers provides respite care. This invaluable service allows families to take some well-deserved time off while ensuring their loved ones receive proper care.
Companionship: Loneliness and social isolation can worsen the symptoms of dementia. Carers offer companionship, conversation, and also emotional support to individuals.
World Alzheimer’s Day therefore serves as a reminder of the global impact of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. In Ireland, the prevalence of dementia is increasing. This increase is highlighting the importance of raising awareness, providing support services, and fostering a more dementia-friendly society. With organisations like Comfort Keepers and initiatives like Understand Together, individuals living with Alzheimer’s and their families can access the care and resources they need to navigate the challenges of this condition and enhance their quality of life. On this World Alzheimer’s Day, let us unite in the fight against dementia. Let’s work together to promote understanding, support, and hope.
To learn more about or also avail of Comfort Keepers’ dementia and Alzheimer’s homecare services, you can visit our website here.
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