Don’t let dementia become epidemic, warns Swann

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Mr Robin Swann, the North Antrim Ulster Unionist Party Assemblyman and Chairman of the Stormont Employment and Learning Committee, has challenged the Health Minister to “implement as a matter of priority an action plan to help sufferers with dementia and their carers in the constituency”.

Assemblyman Swann, who is also UUP Chief Whip, issued his call to the Health Minister in the wake of statistics from the Alzheimer’s Society which showed that North Antrim had the highest proportion of people living with dementia in Northern Ireland.

Mr Swann said he received “alarming statistics” from the charity, the Alzheimer’s Society, which showed that there are 1,307 people living with dementia in North Antrim, the highest number in any constituency in Northern Ireland.

Mr Swann said: “Given these alarming statistics that North Antrim tops the league of constituencies in the Province of people living with this dementia challenge, the Minister and his department need to implement and maintain a support plan otherwise there is the real danger this current dementia crisis in North Antrim could become a health care epidemic.”

This prompted Mr Swann to ask the Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety what services are currently provided for people living with dementia in North Antrim.

In his response to Assemblyman Swann, the Health Minister stated: “Services for people living with dementia in the North Antrim area are provided by the Northern Health and Social Care Trust’s (NH&SCT) Community Mental Health Team for Older Persons.

“This multi-disciplinary team provides assessment, diagnosis, review and support services, from pre-diagnosis to ongoing support throughout.

“An out-patient memory service is also provided. The Dementia Home Support Team provides specialist input for individuals in care home settings with challenging behaviours.

“The Alzheimer’s Society are contracted to provide a range of services which include: a Dementia Support Worker providing a support and information service throughout the Trust area; and a befriending service which provides one-to one support to people with dementia and their carers.

“Trained volunteers spend at least two to four hours a week with the individual who has been matched with the trained volunteer during the early stages of dementia.

“The Society also provides an advocacy service in relation to all aspects of care and support throughout the NHSCT area.

“Good Morning Ballycastle, run by three local churches, operates a daily telephone call service to individuals, which also serves as a valuable resource for people with dementia in the area,” the Minister told Assemblyman Swann.