The problems associated with the daily challenge of living with dementia is also concentrating scientific minds in Ireland where the health and well-being of partners who care for people with dementia is the subject of a three-year study being undertaken by researchers at Trinity College Dublin’s Institute for Neuroscience.
Researchers are recruiting 300 participants for its De-Stress project which will study the stress levels and cognitive function of Irish dementia caregivers. The study, being conducted by Trinity’s NEIL (Neuro-Enhancement for Independent Lives) programme, will provide information on the health of carers of people with dementia. The study is funded by the Alzheimer Society of Ireland and the Health Research Board under the Medical Research Charities Group funding scheme. Professor Brian Lawlor, Clinical Director of NEIL and Conolly Norman Professor of Old Age Psychiatry at Trinity, said: “You can’t treat the person with dementia without taking the caregiver into consideration. By understanding the effects of caregiving on cognitive functioning, we can think about how to develop novel interventions that will benefit the caregiver but also will have a knock on benefit for the person with dementia.
“Ultimately, we want to improve the quality of life of the person with dementia and their caregiver, allowing the person with dementia to be able to stay at home with a good quality of life for as long as possible. “Also, it is important to consider the impact that providing dementia care has on caregivers’ lives. Though caregiving can be rewarding and have positive effects on caregivers, it may also negatively affect their relationships, careers, income, health and well-being.
“Recent reports suggest that caring for a person with dementia places greater burden and strain on family members than other caring roles. Thus, though caregivers want to provide care, it is essential that they themselves are supported and protected from the additional stresses of providing care.”
In Ireland, there are currently 41,740 people with dementia; by 2041 there will be over 140,000. 60-70% of individuals (approximately 26,104 people) with dementia in Ireland currently live at home in the community. There are an estimated 50,000 family carers of people with at least one symptom of dementia in Ireland and the overall cost of dementia care is just over €1.69 billion per annum; 48% of this is attributable to informal family care; 43% is accounted for by residential care; formal health and social care services contribute only 9% to the total cost.