Northern Ireland

Four out of five unpaid NI carers taking on bulk of caring for people with dementia

A survey by the Alzheimer’s Society has highlighted the price unpaid carers pay to provide vital care to loved ones
A survey by the Alzheimer’s Society has highlighted the price unpaid carers pay to provide vital care to loved ones A survey by the Alzheimer’s Society has highlighted the price unpaid carers pay to provide vital care to loved ones

Four out of five unpaid carers in Northern Ireland are taking on the bulk of caring responsibilities for people with dementia, a leading charity has said.

A survey by the Alzheimer’s Society has highlighted the price unpaid carers pay to provide vital care to loved ones.

It found that 85 per cent of carers in the north class themselves as primary carers, taking on the majority of caring responsibilities for their loved one.

Spending on average four working days a week (26.7 hours) providing essential practical and emotional support, the impact of unpaid caring duties comes at a price, with a quarter going as far to say they feel they have lost their identity (20 per cent).

A quarter revealed they lost friends and lacked frequent social contact with others, while three in 10 also said they did not have anyone they felt they could go to for help.

Around half surveyed have had to juggle caring duties with working full-time, with one in six forced to reduce working hours.

The charity is encouraging people to sign up to a Memory Walk, which sees thousands of people walk for, or in memory of, a loved one with dementia.

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Funds raised will go towards vital campaigning efforts and support services desperately needed by people who have been devastated by dementia, including carers.

Alan Bayles and his wife Monica, who live in Castledawson, will be among those to take part in a Memory Walk in Ormeau Park in south Belfast on September 23 in memory of his mother Madge.

Madge was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia (frontal lobe dementia) in September 2022.

Within a short time, she lost 75 per cent of her short-term memory, but it was not until the end of February 2023 that her condition really started to deteriorate rapidly.

Madge with her twin sons Alan and David
Madge with her twin sons Alan and David Madge with her twin sons Alan and David

Mr Bayles' brother David was their mother's main carer until she moved into a care home.

"My brother had so many hurdles to overcome," he said.

"David was very tired, was still working, although his employers were very good and he was able to work from home.

"He was also having to deal with all the admin like sorting out power of attorney and dealing with the bank etc.

"My wife and I did some respite care for two weeks to enable David to get away for a break and it was very draining as her condition deteriorated even during that short period of time."

He added: "We’ll be walking the Belfast Memory Walk at Ormeau Park to help raise money for research, in the hope that we can live in a world where dementia no longer devastates lives".

Barry Smyth from Alzheimer’s Society said: “There are so many family members and friends providing care around-the-clock to keep their loved ones tethered to the world.

"This vital care can be incredibly rewarding but comes at a cost – often coping with changes to behaviour and carrying out daily tasks many of us take for granted.

“By signing up to one of our Memory Walks, we can continue to provide help and hope to everyone who has been devastated by dementia.

"We see thousands of people, all connected by similar experiences, coming together, which is always incredible to witness."