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Brian Crowley (Ireland)

MEPs speak out on dementia

Brian Crowley (Ireland) talks to AE about his priorities for the European elections (May 2009)

In the run up to the elections, Alzheimer Europe asked Members of the European Parliament the following questions:

1. As the mandate of this European Parliament draws to a close, we would be very interested in hearing which you consider to be the key accomplishments of this Parliament which had a direct impact on people with Alzheimer’s disease and their carers?

2. After the European Parliament elections in June, which are the main policy initiatives that will be important for people with dementia and their carers?

3. If you are re-elected, do you have any personal priorities that would be of particular interest to people with dementia and their carers?

Brian Crowley

Brian Crowley: I will continue to assist the people with dementia and ensure their carers have the maximum amount of protection and services. As I was one of the founders of the European Alzheimer's Alliance, I will continue, if elected, to push the concerns of all carers and those suffering from dementia.

Brian Crowley speaks about the situation in Ireland for people with dementia and their carers

Alzheimer Europe (AE): Mr. Crowley, you are a founding member of the European Alzheimer's Alliance, as well as serving as Vice-Chairperson. What are the key challenges that people with dementia and their carer's face in Ireland?


Brian Crowley (BC): Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias affect 44,000 people in Ireland, and impact on 50,000 carers and hundreds and thousands of family members. Dementia has a life changing physical, emotional and mental impact on all those affected and day-to-day living can become incredibly challenging. Even so, families cope, providing wonderful care to their loved one and making a massive contribution to the baseline cost of dementia care.


The experience of living with dementia and its challenges, vary from family to family. The current economic crisis means that the Irish government will have to make difficult decisions regarding public spending in the current months and it is important that the decisions that are made protect the most vulnerable.


We know that some of the biggest challenges facing people affected by this devastating condition are: the‘double whammy’ discrimination they experience due to ageist societal attitudes compounded by the stigma of having Alzheimer’s or dementia; the complexity and fragmentation of the health and social care systems, and lack of appropriate information can make living life much more challenging and stressful for persons with dementia and their family carers; and, the difficulties in accessing an early diagnosis particularly for those younger people with dementia. We need to tackle this through education, awareness and through risk reduction programmes.


AE: Governments across Europe are starting to pay more attention to the demographic changes in our societies and the resulting increase in the numbers of people with dementia in the future. Are there similar discussions in your country on a governmental or parliamentary level?


BC: Even though the Irish population is somewhat younger in profile than other countries in Europe, there is a growing focus on the issue of demographic ageing is in line with current population trends. Funding for community services for older people, including people with dementia and their families, has increased over the last decade, but we must do our best to maintain these services despite the current economic crisis if we are to sustain people in living at home for as long as is possible and practicable. The establishment of the Health Information and Quality Authority, means that there is now an independent body responsible for the registration and inspection of all residential care services for older people which will result in better standards of care.


In recent years, the Irish government has established an Office of Older People within the Department of Health and appointed a cross-departmental Minister for Older People and Health Promotion. We have just commenced a consultation process for developing a National Positive Ageing Strategy that ensures that Ireland will be the place to grow older in and this will really open up the public debate on ageing and age-related issues. However it is fair to say that demographics are important but they are not our destiny.


AE: Do you believe that Ireland will follow the example set by France, Norway, the Netherlands and England and create a National Alzheimer's Plan?


BC: I believe that Ireland will follow the example set by our European partners and create a national Alzheimer’s plan or strategy... and in the near future. Dementia is a complex condition which impacts on the lives of the person, their family and the wider community; so a coordinated mult-faceted response is needed in order to maximise the quality of life of those living with dementia.


We know that our population is ageing and that the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia is likely to increase in the decades to come. Without a dementia-specific plan in place, opportunities may be missed to address the specific issues that arise with dementia in a coordinated way, reducing effectiveness and efficiencies.


AE: What do you believe should the three policy priorities be for Irish policy makers to improve the lives of people with dementia and their carers in your country?


BC: There are three policy priorities for policy makers in Ireland ....


a. To firmly place the person with dementia, supported by their family carer(s), at the heart of all policy and planning; recogninsing the rights of the person with dementia and the rights of their carer. Consultation with both carers and people with dementia should become cornerstone of policy conception, development and delivery – evidence shows us that this approach works best.


b. To ensure that quality community services are available, to maximise quality of life of person with dementia and their carer, promote earlier diagnosis and facilitate continued living at home for as long as possible. That is what families want.


c. To look to and learn from the European drive to look strategically at the issue of dementia in terms of policy, planning, services and research so that ultimately those affected by the devastating condition are best served.


 AE: Finally, a last question on the need of a European response to the growing numbers of people with dementia. Would you support the development of a European Action Plan in this field and, if so, what should the priorities for such a European collaboration be?


BC: I am delighted that the European Commission has heeded the call of the European Parliament and that shortly after the adoption of Written Declaration 80/2008 on the priorities in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease, the Commission launched a European Alzheimer’s initiative in July this year. This initiative will bring European countries together to find better ways of how to prevent and diagnose dementia, pool research capacities, exchange best practices on care approaches and organise collaboration on the ethical issues posed by dementia. I will support this initiative in the discussions within the European Parliament, as I am convinced that there is huge potential to improve the lives of people with dementia and their carers through this type of cooperation between European countries.

Brian Crowley, MEP (Ireland), and Vice-Chairperson of the European Alzheimers Alliance talks about the work which the Alliance has carried out at European and national levels as well as the future role the Alliance can play to help people with dementia and their carers. (April 2010)

The European Alzheimer's Alliance provides a vital cross party forum, which invites and encourages greater communication among the political representatives of European Member States on the pressing issue of Alzheimer's disease.

As a founding member of the European Alzheimer's Alliance and Vice-chair since 2006, I see the Alliance as a multipurpose organisation. The Alliance acts to increase awareness of Alzheimer's disease, and the wide variety of attendant issues, on both a Community wide and nationwide level. In this manner the Alliance encourages the allocation of sufficient resources to properly address the public health issue of dementia. Furthermore, the Alliance operates to ensure that through communication and open information exchange that the best support and care can be made available to those who suffer from dementia and their carers. In this way the Alliance provides protection and a critical support structure both to those who live with dementia and their carers.

On a European level, the Alliance has worked tirelessly with Alzheimer's Europe and national Associations to ensure that Dementia is given the priority it deserves as a public health concern. This hard work has begun to pay off, as important progress is being made at Community level. In February 2009, following a successful information campaign by the Alliance, the European Parliament adopted the Written Declaration 80/2008 calling on the Commission to adopt a European Action Plan on Dementia. Furthermore, in July 2009, the European Commission adopted a proposal for a Council recommendation on measures to combat neurological diseases, in particular Alzheimer’s through a joint programming of research activities and communication on a European initiative on Alzheimer's disease and other dementias.

On a National level, the work of the Alliance and Alzheimer's Europe has inspired the development of National Dementia Action plans. There has been encouraging movement across the Community in the adoption of national plans and with sustained effort by the Alliance further developments are inevitable.

Looking forward, the Alliance has an essential role to play in bringing dementia into focus as a community-wide public health concern and in ensuring the momentum gathered at Community level is maintained. We will work closely with the other European institutions to ensure that the goals set out in the Paris Declaration are implemented in a prudent and timely manner. We will support and encourage all Member States in the further development of National Health, Social and Research agendas on Dementia.

Furthermore, we will call on the new European Commissioners for Heath, Social Affairs and Research to closely examine the issue of dementia in light of their specific portfolios. So much progress has been made but there are still many challenges to be met. As an ageing population, it is vital we stay the course and meet these challenges head on.



Last Updated: Wednesday 28 March 2012