Building a Better Health Service


Campaign to Tackle Dementia Stigma


Dementia Understand Together, a new campaign to increase awareness of dementia, was launched on 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.

Any one of us can develop dementia...

The launch was attended by over 100 people representing all parts of Irish society showing their support for building more inclusive and understanding communities for people with dementia and their loved ones. Professor Brian Lawlor, Trinity College Dublin and chair of the campaign steering group, said, “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.” 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.”

Everyone can play a part by understanding more

One in two 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. Dementia not only deeply impacts individuals with the conditioni but also the lives of their loved ones. Those caring for loved ones with dementia often experience loneliness and isolation. Margot McCambridge, who cared for her husband and is a member of the campaign steering group, said, “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, “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.”

Understand Together is one of six key elements of the National Dementia Strategy and is jointly overseen by the HSE’s Health and Wellbeing Division, and the HSE’s National Dementia Office in Services for Older People, Social Care Division. It involves the development of radio, print, out of home, digital and television campaigns alongside the development of a partnership network comprising local and national organisations and groups aimed at creating better community environments that actively embrace people with dementia and their loved ones. The campaign will also communicate information about dementia - what it is, who gets it and things people can do to reduce their risks of developing dementia. Alongside this information the campaign will be promoting simple everyday things that businesses, organisations and individuals can do to show their support for people living with dementia and those caring for loved ones.

Working together to promote understanding of dementia

UNDERSTAND Together is a collaborative campaign that has been developed with partners, including ASI and Genio. Tina Leonard, Head of Advocacy & Public Affairs with the Alzheimer Society of Ireland (ASI) said, “Each day, we hear of stigma and isolation 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’ll 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.” This partnership approach is fundamental to ensuring that people across all sections of Irish society are inspired to become involved in building more inclusive communities for people with dementia and their loved ones. To date, over 30 businesses and organisations have pledged their support for the campaign. These include transport providers Irish Rail, Bus Eireann and Dublin Bus; financial institutions Bank of Ireland, Ulster Bank and the Irish League of Credit Unions; An Post; the IFA; IBEC and ISME. Other partners include Boots, the Irish Pharmaceutical Union, the ICGP and the Law Society of Ireland, as well as a wide range of voluntary and community organisations including ALONE, Age Friendly Ireland and Active Retirement Ireland. Together with the campaign, these organisations hope to promote greater awareness of dementia and greater inclusion of people affected by the condition in communities across Ireland.
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