September is World Alzheimer’s Month. The readers of the West Cork Times might be surprised to learn that Alzheimer’s disease is one of at least 400 different types of dementia. All can be associated with difficulties in memory, thinking and language, problem-solving and carrying out everyday tasks, as well changes in mood and behaviour.
People in Ireland have poor knowledge of dementia, which is surprising given that so many of us have been touched by it. One in every two of us knows someone with dementia. Half a million of us live in a family that has been affected by dementia and 180,000 of us have cared for a family member or loved one with the condition.
Those who have received a diagnosis, their families and loved ones have told us of the stigma and fear which still surrounds dementia. They speak of feeling isolated within their own communities, of being written out of daily life.
Ireland is renowned for its sense of community. We have always gathered together to support one another in times of difficulty. The Dementia: Understand Together campaign seeks to build on this tradition of ‘meitheal’ by calling on people to ensure that their villages and towns, and their clubs and businesses, are part of communities which support people with dementia and strive to be better places in which to live with dementia.
Understand Together aims to get people talking about dementia – to understand what it is and what it isn’t – and to encourage them to see the person behind the disease. We need to build on what people with dementia can still do and the contributions they can still make.
Together we can all make a difference. Simply taking a few minutes to chat or calling by for a cuppa, can help alleviate some of the loneliness people with the condition and their carers can experience. If you own a business or are part of a club, consider what you can do to become more dementia-inclusive. Find out more by visiting www.understandtogether.ie or Freephone 1800 341 341.
This World Alzheimer’s Month, let’s all stand together with the 55,000 people living with dementia in Ireland and play our part in building a more supportive, inclusive and welcoming society for people with dementia.
Professor Brian Lawlor
Chair, “Dementia: Understand Together” Steering Group
Trinity College Dublin,
College Green, Dublin 2