The Alzheimer Society of Ireland estimate that there are over 64,000 people living with dementia in this country. 63% of that community live at home, and, aided by supportive family members, their condition remains manageable in their own environments. 

In fact, more than 180,000 Irish citizens are, or have previously been, carers for family members. Not everyone with dementia ends up needing to move to a nursing home but many do, and the facilities they are met with should be of high quality and sensitive care. 

The numbers show just how prevalent dementia is in Ireland, and with our aging population and growing life expectancy, it will continue to be a topic of huge significance in Irish healthcare in the coming years.

FirstCare Nursing Home Group operate out of Kildare, Dublin, Bray and Wicklow Town. Find out more about our locations here.

What is Dementia?

Dementia is an umbrella term covering a wide range of diseases that cause damage to the brain. It can have a significant impact on memory, language, thought and your ability to function and perform routine tasks. 

With a loss of cognitive functioning, a person with dementia may be unable to control their emotions to the point that their personality changes. It ranges in severity and the early stages of dementia can represent a very different standard of living to someone whose condition has markedly deteriorated over a number of years.

Dementia is not a standard part of the ageing process, but it is far more common among older members of the population. Roughly 33% of people aged 85 and above are thought to have some form of dementia. 

Some of the symptoms that a person with dementia may experience include:

  • Multi-faceted problems with communication including speech, comprehension, expression, reading and writing.
  • Memory loss and feelings of confusion.
  • Fluctuating moods and changes in general behaviour.
  • An inability to keep track of time.
  • Repeating themselves and using strange or unusual words for familiar things.
  • Hallucinations and feelings of agitation, delusion or paranoia.
  • Delays and a lack of interest in functioning and performing everyday tasks.
  • Acting on impulse.
  • Difficulty planning or organising events.

The range of diseases that fall under dementia are neurodegenerative. Essentially, this means that the symptoms that come with the disorder are progressive and won’t be reversed. At this moment, there are no cures for these types of conditions. 

What is Alzheimer’s?

While dementia covers a broad range of conditions that cause damage to the brain, Alzheimer’s is a specific neurological condition that causes brain atrophy and heavily impacts memory, language, and an individual’s ability to function and perform everyday tasks. 

In September 2021, it was estimated that 41,700 people in Ireland were living with some form of dementia, and that that figure was set to rise to 141,000 by 2050. 

Alzheimer’s is by far the most common and well-known type of dementia. It is named after Dr Alois Alzheimer who found clumps, or amyloid plaques, and bundled fibres, or neurofibrillary, in the brain tissue of a woman who had died from an abnormal brain disease.

Common Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease

The most common, early signs of Alzheimer’s are struggles with memory. Short term memory loss can manifest itself in a number of recognisable ways:

  • Misplacing objects and struggling to find them.
  • Finding yourself lost for various words.
  • Struggles with directions and finding your way to familiar locations.
  • An inability to keep track of time.
  • Mood swings.
Early-Onset Alzheimer’s vs Late-Stage Alzheimer’s

By in large, Alzheimer’s and most forms of dementia affect individuals aged 65 and above. Sadly, Alzheimer’s can also be found among younger people. Early-onset Alzheimer’s predominantly impacts people in their 40s and 50s. 

Most people with early-onset Alzheimer’s have the common form of the disease but, in rare cases, it can be contracted genetically. Genetic early-onset Alzheimer disease mainly affects individuals in their 30w, 40s and 50s. 

Late-stage Alzheimer’s tends to be more severe. As the disease develops, communication becomes more and more of a struggle. People end up growing unable to interact with their environment and tasks like language and physical movement become very difficult. 

Individuals with Alzheimer’s can become very susceptible to infections like pneumonia as their immune systems grow weaker. They end up requiring intensive care and controlled facilities. 

Types of Dementia

Alongside Alzheimer’s, some of the most common types of progressive, irreversible dementia are:

  • Vascular dementia: a result of damage sustained by the vessels that supply the brain with blood. Issues with blood vessels can also harm the supply of oxygen to the brain, and sometimes result in a stroke.

  • Frontotemporal dementia: an uncommon form of dementia that predominantly causes issues with language/communication and behaviour. While dementia mainly affects people aged 65 and above, frontotemporal dementia tends to start earlier. Most cases are found in adults aged 45-65.

  • Lewy body dementia: Lewy bodies are microscopic protein deposits that can form in the brain. DLB is a progressive form of dementia that reduces an individual’s ability to think, reason and function independently.

  • Parkinson’s disease dementia: some people living with Parkinson’s disease can contract this form of dementia, sometimes roughly ten years after their initial diagnosis. The symptoms are similar to DLB, and Parkinson’s disease dementia also shows signs of Lewy bodies in the brain.

  • Mixed dementia: this is a combination of multiple types of dementia, oftentimes vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

  • Huntington’s Disease: Huntington’s is a genetic disease is progressive and eventually stops the brain from functioning, usually over a period of about twenty years. Though an individual may have the Huntington’s gene from birth, symptoms don’t tend to appear until they are aged between 30 and 50. It is a very rare condition that, among other things, impacts speech, memory, behaviour and mood.

There are more forms of dementia, some associated with other conditions such as HIV or Down Syndrome. Many share common symptoms but the experience of each person living with dementia is unique to their own situation.

Dementia and Alzheimer’s Care Facilities Ireland

The decision to move a loved one into a nursing home or care facility is incredibly difficult and never taken lightly. If you do decide that a family member living with dementia is in need of round-the-clock care in an established facility, FirstCare aims to provide an environment and care team capable of making life with dementia more comfortable. 

Our nursing homes are located in Kildare, Dublin, Bray and Wicklow Town. Each is committed to enhancing the wellbeing of its residents and ensuring they enjoy their daily life.

Staff are trained to suit high-dependency conditions that require specialist care, and our team has experience caring for people with both mild and more complex needs. 

If you are considering FirstCare as a facility for your loved one, you can read more about the various activities and forms of therapy, as well as the parameters of our care facilities.