The Alzheimer Society of Ireland recently announced that 2016 was the busiest year on record for their national helpline since the since the service began in 2000.
Almost 5,000 people contacted the free service which provides information and emotional support to those living with dementia in Ireland.
As in previous years the majority of callers (61pc) got in touch about a relative who had been diagnosed with dementia. The vast majority of these worried relatives were female (78pc) who were calling about a parent.
People worried about a relative had extensive information needs about dementia that included information on services available, about the condition, on day-to-day living such as behaviour, assistive technology and activities and on legal issues. The need for emotional support was clear with 15pc of relatives calling about a loved one with a diagnosis contacted the helpline due to stress.
Increase in calls from people worried about own health
There was an increase (18pc) in calls from people worried about their own health and the gender divide didn’t materialise here as calls were split 50:50 from women and men. These callers were interested in information on diagnosis and reducing risk. The ASI welcomes this increase as early diagnosis can lead to better management and outcomes for the condition, especially in early stages.
“Often this conversation may be the first time a person has mentioned to anyone that they are concerned about changes in their memory, mood or ability to manage day-to-day,” stated ASI Information and Helpline Manager Samantha Taylor. “In fact 52pc of callers confirmed they had not spoken to their GP at all about their concerns and while 39pc had been to their GP, they needed to get support in identifying the next steps from our Helpline Advisers before feeling confident to return to their GP to discuss their concerns further.”
Ms Taylor acknowledges the impact the HSE’s Understand Together campaign, launched last October, has already had on raising awareness on dementia and the role the ASI Helpline has to play in that. “The role of the ASI Helpline is to provide information and emotional support to service users and our service is confidential, non-directive and non-judgmental”, she continues. We know that one in two people know someone who has dementia and that each year over 4,000 people develop dementia. We can empower people by providing information about dementia, about services and about supports that may be available and also crucially by providing a listening ear and a safe space to talk.”
The Alzheimer Society of Ireland National Helpline is open six days a week, Monday to Friday, from 10am-5pm and Saturdays from 10am to 4pm on 1800 341 341.