Grim but unsurprising findings on dementia failings

News Letter editorial on Wednesday June 29 2022:

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

The Alzheimer’s Society has issued a report on the ‘unequal and inadequate’ support that people get in Northern Ireland after a dementia diagnosis.

Two thirds of people so affected in the Province feel they did not receive enough such assistance.

A tragedy of such a diagnosis is that patients soon are unable to assess their own needs.

But their relatives will not be surprised by these findings.

And the Alzheimer’s Society said that most carers of people with dementia feel they reached a crisis point in the last year.

The charity is speaking about the cost of such neglect, if dementia sufferers end up in the much more expensive environment of hospital.

There are a lot of factors at play behind these grim findings.

The simplest is that the number of people with dementia has risen rapidly, as is inevitable given rising life expectancy.

You might say that the increase in patients with age-related cognitive impairment is an inevitable consequence of people living far longer than they did only a few decades ago.

While that is so, it is also a consequence of the political failure in Northern Ireland to get to grips with the health and care challenges that we face.

Not only a rapidly growing elderly population, but also Stormont’s refusal to introduce more efficient health provision.

This is all the more disappointing given that in Northern Ireland health and care provision are already linked, and so NI should be well placed for the sort of integration between the two that is so beneficial to elderly people.

There is also a wider cultural failure to recognise the vital nature of care work. Carers are badly paid, yet they undertake crucial, and demanding, work.

Adding all these factors together, it is little wonder the people with dementia are getting inadequate care.

And it is particularly regrettable given that such sufferers are among the most vulnerable people in society, and they have earned support after a lifetime living in our communities.