A three year programme designed to enhance the life experience of people with dementia has been a wonderful success in South Tipperary.
It was one of four areas in the country to be selected for the three year pilot project which will come to end in October with pressure now mounting on the HSE and Department of Health to continue the funding and to implement the lessons learned during the lifetime of the project.
The 5 Steps to Living Well with Dementia project reached out to people with dementia and their families in South Tipperary and made a lasting impact on their lives as well as raising awareness of dementia in South Tipperary.
“The response to the project has been really positive. Everybody involved worked really hard. It has been a successful, very cost effective project that has improved the quality of life for people with dementia”, said project lead on the programme, Dr.Caitriona Crowe, Consultant in Old Age Psychiatry in South Tipperary.
Dr. Crowe said the pilot project, which was also introduced in Kinsale, Mayo and in a part of Dublin city, comprised of a multidisciplinary team made up of consultants, GP. geriatrician, public health nurses, clinical nurse specialists, social worker, HSE management and occupational therapist working in conjunction with four voluntary bodies - the South Tipperary Alzheimer’s Association, the Carers Association, Muintir na Tire and the South Tipperary Community and Voluntary forum.
Each of the four pilot projects received €700,000 in funding, with Atlantic Philanthropies putting up €2m which was matched by the government.
Dr. Crowe outlined the benefits of the pilot programme at a seminar in Cashel last week held in Bru Boru cultural centre. The seminar was also attended by Tipperary hurling manager Eamon O’Shea, who in his role as a Professor at NUI Galway is involved in the evaluation process attached to the programme.
The seminar also heard from former carer Helen Jenkins who spoke on her experience of caring for both her parents, who suffered with dementia.
Dr. Crowe said Professor OShea was one of the people involved in the evaluation of the project concerning its cost effectiveness and the quality of the service provided.
“It is being intensely monitored on a number of different levels”, she said, adding that a very strong case had already been made to the HSE for funding for a similar project in South Tipperary after October when the pilot scheme expires.
“Based on the experiences of the team and the people who have availed of the services, a powerful case can be made for this type of scheme to continue in South Tipperary. The HSE is listening to us and they are supportive and discussions are on-going”, she said.
Dr. Crowe remarked that the programme reached out to at least one thousand people with dementia in South Tipperary.
Among those were people with dementia who avail of services of the Carers Association based in Clonmel.
Carers Association Manager Richie Molloy said the project was a very important one in the community. One of the most satisfying aspects of the project was that it enabled Carers respite staff, who look after people with dementia in their own homes, to bring them out into the community.
“Our respite staff who visit homes have to stay in the home and do tasks for people in their own homes. However, under this scheme, the respite staff could accompany the person with dementia out into the community, to be with them walking down the street, doing their shopping, going to mass or just meeting people out and about” said Mr Molloy.
He said this made a massive difference to the lives of people living with dementia.
He explained that the Carers respite staff were prevented from going out into the community with the person with dementia for insurance purposes but on this scheme because of the the way it was set up, that difficulty was overcome.
Mr Molloy hoped that this will be one of the many lessons learned from the pilot project and he wanted the HSE to take measures to deal with the insurance issue on a long term basis.
“Because of this big change and the manner in which it brought the person with dementia back out into the community, we received a very positive feedback from families and everybody would like to see that practice continue”, he said.