First National Memory Clinic in country opens in Tallaght

By Mary Dennehy

THE country’s first National Memory Clinic for people with intellectual disabilities was officially launched earlier this week in Tallaght University Hospital.

On Monday, the inaugural webinar of the National Intellectual Disability Memory Clinic in Tallaght University Hospital (TUH) was held to mark World Alzheimer’s Day and as part of the Dementia: Understand Together Campaign.

Tallaght Hospital 04 compressor 1

Tallaght University Hospital

The new national clinic, a pilot service developed with the support of the HSE National Dementia Office and funded through the Dormant Accounts Disbursement Fund, is operating on a part-time basis in TUH.

It runs parallel with the mainstream Memory Assessment and Support Service in the hospital and uses the expertise of nurses from the Daughters of Charity Disability Support Services.

The clinic, which is guided by Professor Mary McCarron from the Trinity Centre for Ageing and Intellectual Disability, can take referrals from GPs or psychiatrists who have a concern about someone with an intellectual disability.

Trinity research has shown that the risk of dementia is very high in people with an intellectual disability and especially those with Down syndrome.

By 65 years of age, 80 per cent of people with Down syndrome will develop dementia with the average age of onset being 51 years of age.

Prof Sean Kennelly 1

Professor Sean Kennelly

This compares to a prevalence of dementia in the general population of between 4.6 per cent and 8.6 per cent in people at 65 years and older, Trinity research says.

According to TUH, people with an intellectual disability are now living to older age, ‘a great success story of which health and social services, families and people with intellectual disabilities themselves, can be very proud of’.

However, despite these improvements, people with intellectual disabilities continue to experience greater and more complex health and social issues than their peers in the general population.

The Memory Clinic at TUH aims to address some of those issues directly by providing diagnosis, post-diagnostic support and promoting prevention strategies and brain health.

Key messages from the clinic’s inaugural webinar on Monday said that despite people with Down syndrome at high risk of developing dementia, ‘many struggle to get a diagnosis and caregivers are often overwhelmed’.

Given the high risk, the need to look at prevention and develop a greater focus on brain health was discussed, and will be addressed by the creation of the new clinic at Tallaght.

Clinical Director of the Memory Clinic, Professor Sean Kennelly, Tallaght University Hospital said: “TUH has developed over time as a centre of excellence for dementia care and cognitive research, we know from the mainstream memory assessment and support service that is running since 2016 that proper diagnosis is the vital first step towards providing the kinds of supports that people need.

“And the earlier we can diagnose, the better.

“Without diagnosis, health services cannot move forward with a patient.

“Our specialist Clinic, the first of its kind in Ireland, is in keeping with Tallaght’s aspiration to move thinking forward about dementia in this country.

“This clinic will influence the mainstream service and will benefit from what we have learned in Tallaght.”

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