33,000 people in Ireland suffer from dementia

The Law Reform Commission in its 2005 consultation paper entitled vulnerable adults and the law : capacity considered existing legal mechanisms to address loss of capacity. Chief among these is the EPA.

The paper addresses people with limited decision making ability and refers to them as vulnerable adults. They can be categorised:

  • intellectual disability
  • dementia
  • mental illness
  • acquired brain injury
  • inability to communicate decisions

The one I wish to address is dementia. It is estimated that 33,000 people in Ireland suffer from dementia, most of whom have Alzheimers Disease (about 60%). Persons with Parkinson’s Disease and Huntingdon’s Disease may develop dementia late on in the disease. The incidence obviously increases with age. The National Council of Ageing and Older People has projected that by 2021 the percentage of older males will have risen from 10% to 14%, while the percentage of older females will have risen from 12.5% to 16.5%. As a result the number of adults with dementia will also increase.

The Powers of Attorney Act 1996 introduced the concept in Ireland of the epa. Before the onset of illness all adults in the country have the opportunity to manage their affairs by appointing attorneys but very few do. When dementia happens, they can no longer make decisions for themselves. Those that care may apply to the High Court for the patients to be admitted as Wards of Court. This course of action is expensive, time consuming, distressing to a family and altogether unnecessary.

The message has to go out to people showing early signs of the disease; doctors who recognise it in their patients and family members who can spot the telltale incidents of forgetfulness. Appoint your attorneys now.


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