NEWS — 09 July 2014

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Celebrity gardener Diarmuid Gavin has joined the Dementia Friends Campaign to help raise awareness of dementia – a growing issue amongst members of the Irish community in Britain.

The campaign, established by Public Health England and Alzheimer’s Society, revealed an unexpected rise in dementia within Irish communities.

Of the 665,000 people in England and Wales living with dementia, it is estimated that approximately 10,000 are from the Irish community, a figure expected to rise significantly as the population ages. By 2026, it is likely to have doubled to nearly 20,000 and by 2051 to over 70,000 – representing a seven-fold increase in 40 years.

Diarmuid Gavin told the Irish World that he wanted to support the campaign as there is a lot of fear and a lack of understanding about dementia – in all communities as well as the Irish community.

“The most important part of awareness is knowledge and understanding. Once the basics of Dementia are understood, people will realise that things can be affected by memory loss to adapt and cope with the help of family, friends and community,” he said.

He added: “It’s important to know that people living with dementia can have a great quality of life, especially when they are in an environment with people who understand them and their culture. That’s what Dementia Friends Campaign really helps you understand; key ways to offer your support to people living with dementia.

“Becoming a Dementia Friend really doesn’t take long, so I encourage as many people to do this as possible. It would be great to develop a network of support for those who need it.”

Dementia is one of the key health issues facing people in Britain, and the increased risk amongst Irish people is a reflection of the older age profile of the community compared to the majority of the population. High rates of high blood pressure, stroke and heart disease amongst the Irish also increase the risk of vascular dementia.

Alongside the higher risk factors for the community, evidence suggests that there are lower levels of awareness about dementia or the services which support people with memory loss and their carers. Older Irish people are reluctant to see their GPs, thus delaying assessment and access to support which could enable them to live well with memory loss with the support of family and community.

Public Health England and the Alzheimer’s Society are working with Irish in Britain to ensure the needs of the Irish community are taken into account by all who provide information, support and dementia services.

Dr Mary Tilki Chair of Irish in Britain said: “Dementia is not just an issue for those who are affected by it. It is a concern for the whole community. Health professionals have an important role to play but each one of us has a contribution to make as a relative, colleague or neighbour in our personal lives, but also in our work and in our local communities.”

To become a Dementia Friend, visit www.dementiafriends.org.uk

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