Dementia Understand Together campaign

Dementia Understand Together campaign

By HSE National Press Office
Monday, 24th October 2016

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.”

To learn more about dementia, and to get involved in the campaign, please visit www.understandtogether.ie  

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