Dementia sufferers ‘not treated like thinking human beings’ – report

The number of people living with dementia is expected to increase faster in Northern Ireland than anywhere else in the UK, according to research.

It was carried out by ARK, a joint initiative between Queen’s University and the University of Ulster.

Almost half of the 1,200 adults interviewed in the survey, which explored attitudes to the illness, said they knew someone with dementia.

There are 19,000 people living with the condition in NI.

Nearly half of respondents, who took part in the 2010 Northern Ireland Life and Times (NILT) Survey, agreed that once someone is diagnosed with dementia they are not treated like “a thinking human being”.

Ninety per cent said they would describe someone with dementia for a long time as confused, and only 7% would say they were happy.

Most NILT respondents (83%) agreed there comes a time when all you can do for someone with dementia is keep them clean, healthy and safe.

A similar proportion (87%) thought that people with dementia should be involved in activities in the community.

Dr Paula Devine, research director at ARK at the School of Sociology, Social Policy and Social Work at Queen’s University, said: “The results tell us that there is greater need for clear, accessible information that gives the public an accurate understanding about dementia and how it impacts on the person with dementia.

“At the same time, the views of people with dementia are vital to understanding their needs as well as ensuring that there is also an increase in the expectation that higher quality of life can be achieved by, and for, people with dementia.”

Maria McManus, director of the Northern Ireland office of the Dementia Services Development Centre and a co-author of the report, said: “The views reflected by the survey confirm much of what needs to be challenged about attitudes, care and services for people with dementia and the need to address this in public policies and research, as well as in practice through the provision of services.”

The research findings are available in a report, “Dementia: public knowledge and attitudes” which can be found online.