“That’s a film I don’t want to see”

julianne Moore
When Julianne Moore won the Oscar for best actress for her performance in ‘Still Alice’, a person close to me said “that’s a film I don’t want to see.”Why? Because that person like tens of thousands of other people in Northern Ireland has a family member who has been affected by the terrible affliction of Alzheimer’s disease.

In ‘Still Alice’ Julianne Moore plays Dr Alice Howland: a renowned linguistics professor at Columbia University who must deal with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, and struggle to hang onto her sense of self.

Dementia is a brain disorder that affects communication and performance of daily activities and Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia that specifically affects parts of the brain that control thought, memory and language.

Here in Northern Ireland the number of older people in Northern Ireland is predicted to grow dramatically in the next decade. Figures released by the NI Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) in 2013 show the numbers of those aged 65 and over are projected to increase by a quarter, to 344,000, by 2022. The numbers of the oldest old, aged 85 and over, are expected to rise by 50%, from 33,000 to 48,000. This is good news but more older people mean more broken bones, more infections, more failing hearts and lungs, more dementia and more Alzheimer’s.

It is clearly the case that an increasing number of people are not able to remain safely in their own homes. There needs to be an increase in the provision of sheltered accommodation and the focus on the provision of acute care will not solve this growing problem.

The proposed closure of all of Northern Ireland’s NHS residential care in 2013 homes triggered an angry response among residents, families and staff and then Health Minister Edwin Poots was forced to make an embarrassing U Turn and order the Health and Social Care Board to manage the issue.

The resulting consultation recommended that each health trust review their policy on permanent admissions. This could mean each health trust keeping at least one home open or they could still insist that all homes in their area close.

The current situation is simply unsustainable.


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