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More support needed for dementia carers

CALLS have been made for more support to be provided for carers for dementia and Alzheimer’s patients in Tyrone and across the rest of the North, as new figures show 40 per-cent of hospital admissions to be “avoidable”.

The findings, released to mark Dementia Action Week (May 17 to 23), show that even before the pandemic, tens of thousands were admitted because poor care left them unprotected from infections, falls and dehydration.

The investigation, involving Freedom of Information requests to health trusts, found that 39.7 per-cent of total emergency admissions for over-65s with dementia in Northern Ireland in 2019 were for avoidable conditions.

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Newtownstewart woman, Bernadette McCrea, was diagnosed with early stage dementia three years ago, and previously worked as a carer herself before having to stop after her diagnosis.

“The whole thing of not working really took a lot out of me. I really loved the job and suddenly then it was all different.

“I’m in the very early stages, so most people that wouldn’t know me wouldn’t know I had it, apart from my family and it came as a bit of a shock to them.”

Bernadette added she was one of the lucky ones as her husband John also has experience working as a carer, and has been a great help in her battle against the illness.

“The great thing was that my husband spent a bit of time doing that type of work so he is well used to what is involved.

“He was a changed man, at least in the kitchen anyway!

“He’s very good in the house and is a great help to me but he is an elderly man himself as well.”

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The Alzheimer’s Society has called on Health Minister Robin Swann to make ‘high quality, easily accessible and consistent social care’ more readily available to those who need it.

Alzheimer’s Society Northern Ireland country director, Bernadine McCrory, said the impact of the pandemic has made the situation more precarious for those with the debilitating conditions.

“Lockdown has left people with dementia in Northern Ireland cut off from vital support and care.

“Interrupted routines, loneliness and isolation have contributed to rapid symptom progression, meaning there’s now more people than

ever fighting for scarce dementia care.

“Without urgent action, avoidable hospital admissions will skyrocket, costing our health and social care system millions.

“With no drugs to cure or slow down the condition, it’s social care that people with dementia rely on every day.

“But lack of time and dementia-specific training among the overworked and underpaid care workforce means people with dementia aren’t getting the support they need, either in their homes or in residential care, leading to emergency admissions and more pressure on the NHS,” she added.

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