A new E700,000 project that aims to “transform” the quality of life of South Tipperary’s dementia patients and their families and to help them remain living in their home as long as possible was unveiled last week.
South Tipperary is one of just four locations in the country to host the pilot dementia project that has the goal of diverting significant numbers of people with dementia from having to avail of nursing home care prematurely.
The “Five Steps to Living Well with Dementia” project will over the next three and a half years put into practice new methods of caring for people with dementia in their communities rather than in inpatient care. And if the project is successful, it’s hoped that its initiatives will be rolled out to dementia patients nationwide.
It is jointly funded by the HSE and Atlantic Philantrophies, the foundation set up by Irish-American billionaire Chuck Feeney.
And it’s being supported by the Genio Trust, a charity working in the areas of disability, mental health and dementia.
A co-ordinator will be the project’s main contact for dementia patients availing of the project’s services and is expected to be recruited next month. Dr Catriona Crowe, the consultant in old age psychiatry in South Tipperary’s mental health service, is leading the project.
The project team includes Dr Crowe’ old age pyschiatry team, South Tipperary General Hospital’s two consultant geriatricians, representative of local GPs, public health, community and dementia nurses and HSE officials. It also includes three dementia patients, three carers, Carers Association, Alzheimer’s Society of Ireland, Munitir na Tire and South Tipperary’s Community and Voluntary Forum.
“The funds for this project amount to the cost of five people going into long term care per year but it will help us keep many people out of premature long term care,” Dr Crowe told the project’s launch in the Clonmel Park Hotel.
She said the project’s services will be structured around the five stages of dementia. The pre-diagnosis stage will involve increasing public awareness and education about dementia and how to prevent the condition.
Dr Crowe said they will be setting up a project website and a dementia awareness training course for community workers.
People with early symptoms of dementia will be provided with information and practical supports with issues such as managing memory loss. The project will also focus on supports for people with progressive and advanced dementia so they can live at home as long as possible. This will include a respite service for some carers where their loved ones can be cared for by another family for a week.
Dr Crowe said peer support workers will be put in place to work with some dementia patients to help them have a better life. A crisis intervention service will be set up to help some dementia patients and their carers in emergencies. The project will also work to improve care for dementia patients at the end of their lives so that they are given the appropriate care to allow them die with dignity. Carer Helen Jenkins from Glenary Court, Clonmel told The Nationalist the project will be of help to her in the palliative type care it will provide to her mother, who is in the latter stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
“For others, I hope the project will provide crisis intervention because there are times when you have a crisis that can wear down a carer. By giving them (the carer) a break, it could actually mean you wouldn’t have to put someone into a nursing home. I am thrilled to be involved in this because I think it’s going to do a great deal of good for South Tipperary people and eventually for people all over the country.”