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HSE leading a new campaign to drive awareness about dementia

  • Half a million Irish people live in families who have been affected by dementia
  • Dementia Understand Together campaign backed by over 30 leading Irish businesses and organisations

Dementia Logo - Blue

Dementia Understand Together, a new campaign to increase awareness of dementia was launched today (Monday, October 24th) at City Hall in Dublin.  It is a public support, awareness and information campaign aimed at inspiring people from all sections of society to stand together with the 55,000 Irish people living with dementia. The ultimate aim is to create an Ireland that embraces and includes people living with dementia, one which displays solidarity with them and their loved ones. Understand Together is led by the HSE working with The Alzheimer Society of Ireland and Genio and a coalition of over 30 partners from business, academic, health and voluntary and community sectors. The campaign is funded by the State and The Atlantic Philanthropies.

Professor Brian Lawlor, Trinity College Dublin and chair of the campaign’s steering group said today, “Each year over 4,000 people develop dementia in Ireland – over 11 people a day. All are living with a brain condition that deeply affects their lives and the lives of people who love and care for them.  Research undertaken for the campaign shows that fear and stigma surround dementia resulting in unnecessary loneliness and isolation for people living with dementia and for their families. It can also result in delays in seeking help and diagnosis with people missing out on available supports and services as a result. These services and supports can allow people to live well with dementia for many years while maintaining their dignity and quality of life.”

The Understand Together campaign was launched by Helen McEntee TD, Minister for Mental Health and Older People at an event where a wide range of partner organisations committed their support to the campaign.

Speaking at the launch Minister McEntee said, “Understand Together is designed to raise public awareness of dementia and build community support for people with dementia, their families and carers.  It aims to bring dementia out of the shadows and encourage people to talk about their experiences of the condition.  I would urge everybody to embrace this campaign.  Your support and that of the entire community will make a difference to the thousands of people living with dementia, their families and carers in Ireland today.”

Ronan Smith, who is living with dementia and is a member of the campaign steering group said, “Life doesn’t end when dementia begins. People with dementia can and do live meaningful, active lives for many years. Diagnosis doesn’t mean we immediately lose our skills and abilities, our need to belong and share or, above all, our sense of dignity. Respecting the diversity of the dementia experience and the individuality of people who are living with it is a vital step in recognising that the person is a lot more than the condition.”

Margot McCambridge, who cared for her husband and is a member of the campaign steering group spoke at the launch about her perspective saying, “The caring experience is complicated. It can be rewarding.  It can also be hugely difficult at times. Support is needed for the carers as much as for the person with dementia. If the carer is supported, this in itself supports the person with dementia.”

Dr. Stephanie O’Keeffe, National Director of Health & Wellbeing, HSE commented, “Our research revealed that 1 in 2 Irish people know or have known someone with dementia. Despite this, only 1 in 4 people feel they have a good understanding of what dementia is and what it isn’t. This campaign, as part of the National Dementia Strategy, aims to build understanding using existing projects to promote greater openness about dementia.  The HSE is proud to be working with the many organisations and partners who stand with us today, and look forward to adding to our support network as the campaign builds over the coming years.’’.

 “Building and sustaining compassionate communities supportive of people with dementia and carers is a challenge which many key organisations can play a part. We know from evidence that maintaining social and community ties is an important element in helping people live well with dementia and in helping to support their loved ones. This campaign seeks to create a collaborative model in which those already engaged in dementia specific activities can link with others and organisations from diverse sectors can work towards greater understanding of dementia and inclusion of those affected by it.”

Tina Leonard, Head of Advocacy & Public Affairs with the Alzheimer Society of Ireland (ASI) said, “This national awareness campaign is absolutely crucial for our country and we’re proud to play our role in it. Each day at the ASI, we hear of stigma and isolation both from people with dementia and carers. When people realise that dementia affects so many in our communities, when people realise that calling for a chat can make a world of difference and when people realise that being ill isn’t shameful, we will have a better society for all.”

Madeline Clarke, Executive Director, Genio  said “Through the HSE and Genio Dementia Programme, innovative projects across the country are developing personalised ways of supporting people with dementia to remain living at home for as long as possible. A supportive and well informed community is an essential component to this. Genio is delighted to be involved in the Understand Together campaign which will not only increase knowledge of dementia but also encourage everyone to become actively involved in supporting people with dementia in their community.”

For support please call The Alzheimer’s Society of Ireland on Freephone 1800 341 341

Issued by: 

HSE National Press Office, Dr. Steevens’ Hospital, Dublin 8

Tel: 01 635 2840  Email: press@hse.ie


Notes to Editor:

Dementia Understand Together is a public support, awareness and information campaign led by the HSE working with The Alzheimer Society of Ireland and Genio. Understand Together is one of the six elements of the National Dementia Strategy Implementation Programme and has been made possible through a funding partnership between the State and the Atlantic Philanthropies.

Understand Together aims to increase public knowledge about dementia – what it is, that it is not a normal part of ageing and that it does not discriminate. It affects people all across society- mothers, fathers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, friends and neighbours and work colleagues.

Each person’s experience of living with dementia is different and the ways in which dementia develops and progresses vary from person to person. The campaign will feature people with dementia and loved ones who are caring or have cared for family members.

Understand Together seeks to build on the wide range of dementia specific programmes and initiatives already in place around Ireland. It aims to draw together the people and organisations involved in this work, to join them with wider society, with the health service, with new partners like retail and transport organisations, financial services, public sector and representative bodies and with neighbours and friends, to create a national movement which will help support those living with dementia and their carers.

The HSE National Dementia Office was established under the remit of the National Social Care Division and led by Mary Manning, General Manager with responsibility for the National Dementia Strategy Implementation Programme

About Dementia

Dementia is the name given to a group of conditions caused by diseases of the brain.  These diseases cause damage to the parts of the brain used for learning, memory, decision-making and language. Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common cause of dementia accounting for two thirds of all cases with vascular dementia the second most common cause. Other dementias include dementia with Lewy bodies, and frontotemporal dementia. Currently, there is no cure for dementia but with appropriate supports and services people with dementia can live well for many years. The risk of developing dementia may be reduced by leading an active lifestyle physically, mentally and socially; eating healthily; low alcohol consumption, not smoking and maintaining healthy blood pressure

Dementia in Ireland

  • 55,000 people in Ireland are living with dementia with this expected to double by 2031. Half a million of us have had a family member with dementia
  • Each year over 4,000 people develop dementia- at least 11 people everyday
  • Most people who develop dementia are over 65 but approximately 10% develop dementia at a younger age.
  • Two thirds of people living with dementia in Ireland are women
  • Over 180,000 people in Ireland are currently or have been carers for a family member or partner with dementia with many more providing support and care in other ways

Partner Organisations (as at 24th October at 9am)

Organisations supporting Understand Together come from all areas of Irish society

  • Active Retirement
  • Age & Opportunity
  • Age Friendly Ireland
  • All Ireland Institute of Hospice & Palliative Care AIIHPC)
  • ALONE
  • An Post
  • Banking and Payments Federation
  • Bank of Ireland
  • Boots
  • Bus Eireann
  • Dementia Services Information and Development Centre
  • Dublin Airport
  • Dublin Bus
  • Hello Brain
  • IBEC
  • Institute of Public Health in Ireland
  • Irish College of General Practitioners
  • Irish Farmers Association
  • Irish Gerontological Society
  • Irish Hospice Foundation
  • Irish League of Credit Unions
  • Irish Pharmacy Union
  • Irish Rail
  • Irish Rural Link
  • ISME
  • National University of Galway
  • Prepared/Dementia
  • Pathways
  • Prepared/Dementia Pathways
  • Sonas APC
  • The Law Society of Ireland
All-Ireland Institute of Hospice and Palliative Care at Our Lady's Hospice and Care Services, Harold's Cross, Dublin 6. Tel: +353 (0)1 491 2948. Email: info@aiihpc.org