2012 Conference Presentation
Dementia has been described as one of the largely unrecognised public health problems that both developed and developing countries around the world will have to face in the near future and several countries across the world including England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, France, the Netherlands, Norway and Australia have National Dementia Strategies/Plans already in place to address this major challenge.
This paper places dementia care in the Republic of Ireland in an international comparative perspective. It argues that Ireland is similar to other countries which have already developed National Dementia Strategies/Plans in that its population is ageing and the number of Irish people with dementia is expected to rise exponentially over the next 20 years. For this reason Ireland can learn from the achievements and failures of these countries, who are currently implementing dementia plans or strategies. Like in other countries, in Ireland, the social and economic costs of caring for people with dementia are both shaped and ameliorated by government policy. A recent study highlighted the significant economic costs associated with dementia care in Ireland. Findings from this study on the cost of dementia care were broadly in line with those from international studies.
A recent review of dementia policy and practice in Ireland has shown that the diagnosis of dementia, like in many other countries, is the exception rather than the rule and people with dementia remain largely hidden in Irish society and are generally subsumed within aged care policy. Unlike other countries as, for example, England, Scotland, Norway and Australia, community care services for people with dementia in Ireland are underdeveloped, inequitable, fragmented and lack a legal basis. The proportion of people with dementia who occupy hospital beds in Ireland is probably similar to that in other countries (up to 25%) but in Ireland, these patients remain largely invisible and, unlike many other European countries, there are few alternatives to the traditional nursing home model of care for people with dementia in Ireland.
In conclusion, this paper presents key findings from a recent research review of dementia care services in Ireland and an international review of policies and best practices on dementia care in countries where National Dementia Strategies/Plans are already in place. By placing Ireland in an international comparative perspective, the paper brings to the fore the key lessons that can be learned from countries with well-developed policies and services on dementia care; lessons that will be useful for countries like Ireland currently planning or in the process of developing a National Dementia Strategy