The Alzheimer Society of Ireland has launched an urgent appeal so that it can continue its work with people with dementia and their families.
According to the charity, COVID-19 (coronavirus) has resulted in a "perfect storm" when it comes to supporting those with dementia. The society has had to postpone its biggest annual fundraiser - Alzheimer's Tea Day - on May 7, which has led to a severe drop in fundraising to the tune of €1 million.
The charity's 48 day care centres have also had to close, and vital supports, such as support groups and social clubs, have been postponed until further notice.
However, the society continues to support people in a number of ways, including via its national helpline and online family carer training.
The charity emphasised that most people living with dementia are in the high-risk category for COVID-19. Furthermore, most of their carers, who are often their partners, also tend to be older and many have underlying health conditions.
With the majority of the society's supports now closed, "thousands of vulnerable people are facing this emergency alone, without the supports and constant care that they urgently need".
"COVID-19 is a public health emergency we have never seen the likes of before and this is affecting everyone on the planet. People with dementia are vulnerable and often confused and COVID-19 has heightened that for them," explained the society's CEO, Pat McLoughlin.
He said that the charity should currently be preparing for the Alzheimer's Tea Day, "our biggest and most important fundraising event of the year".
"Alzheimer's Tea Day has been our biggest fundraising event over the last 25 years and the organisation is so dependent on the funds that it brings in each and every year.
"However, the COVID-19 health crisis means that Alzheimer's Tea Day has now been postponed and the vital funds it raises have been lost, so we are asking for your help to continue to support people with dementia and their families and carers," Mr McLoughlin said.
He noted that the closure of many of the charity's services "is putting even more pressure on people with dementia, their families and carers, isolating them further and causing further stress and ill health".
"We must continue to raise money to provide alternative supports to assist our clients and their families. We must keep our helpline, home care, dementia advisor services and online family carer training open. We must stay connected with people with dementia and their families at this time," he insisted.
Maire Anne Doyle is a member of the Dementia Carers Campaign Network. She has been a fulltime carer for her father since she moved home from Canada over four years ago.
"It's a privilege to be with my dad, he's a super guy and a really good dad. However, as his carer, it's an around-the-clock task, a stressful one that has taken its toll. The current lack of support and feeling of isolation is phenomenal. Something has to be done.
"Carers who look after people living with dementia can't keep struggling. We literally are in crisis here. The home help we get is my only relief and is absolutely invaluable to me and thousands of others," she explained.
According to consultant physician in geriatric and stroke medicine at Tallaght Hospital, Prof Sean Kennelly, caring for people with dementia can be "lonely and exhausting".
"Those who do so are absolute heroes, but they seldom if ever reach out for help. So during this COVID-19 crisis, it is vital that we support them. The Alzheimer Society of Ireland is an incredibly important resource right now. And it will be even more important over the next few weeks and months. It will be needed now more than ever," Prof Kennelly said.
As part of the urgent appeal, members of the public are being asked to make a special emergency donation today on www.alzheimer.ie to help provide essential care and support to those living with dementia whose lives are being impacted by COVID-19.
Meanwhile, for more information on its supports and services during this challenging time, please contact the Alzheimer Society of Ireland's national helpline, which is open Monday to Friday, 10am to 5pm and Saturday, 10am to 4pm. Call 1800 341 341, email firstname.lastname@example.org or live chat at www.alzheimer.ie.
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