The campaign is calling on all political parties to support the 20,000 people estimated to be living with dementia in Northern Ireland.
Nearly 7,000 have not received a diagnosis, which means they do not get the information, care and support they need to come to terms with this complex and terminal condition, and to live well for as long as possible.
Though Northern Ireland average diagnosis rates of 64.8 per cent are higher than in England and Wales, there is still wide variation in diagnosis rates between the trusts; with Belfast Trust achieving 72.9 per cent and the Northern Trust as low as 55.9 per cent.*
Bernadine McCrory, Director of Operations for Alzheimer’s Society in Northern Ireland, said:
‘Getting a diagnosis is a gateway to information, support and services that enable people with dementia to live well and independently for longer. Not having a diagnosis can compromise a person’s general health and wellbeing and can lead to an earlier need for residential and nursing care. It is vital that a timely diagnosis is not reliant on luck or location.’
‘The 20,000 reasons campaign is calling on all the parties to commit to work with Alzheimer’s Society to ensure consistency of diagnosis rates across all trusts and that people with dementia are given information, support and care from the point of diagnosis.’
Liz Cunningham (52), from Belfast, was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease when she was 48. She said:
‘I was still in my forties when I was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. You can feel very isolated when you have dementia. I’m lucky as I have support from my family, staff at my supported housing scheme and Alzheimer’s Society. This has helped me to create a new, positive life. We need to fight for those who are yet to be diagnosed.’
As part of its #20000reasons campaign, Alzheimer’s Society has identified 5 priorities for action:
- Increase the dementia diagnosis rate to 75 per cent across all Health and Social Care Trusts
- Give people access to a Dementia Support Worker from the point of diagnosis
- Compel Health and Social Care Trusts to commission quality home care for people with dementia
- Call on the Department of Health to run a recurring public information campaign to raise awareness of dementia and to help people reduce the risk of developing it
- Promote dementia-friendly communities throughout Northern Ireland, starting with the Northern Ireland Assembly in the first year of the new term