Northern Ireland Hospice hosts inaugural International Conference for Palliative and Dementia Care

13 May 2019

Northern Ireland has welcomed esteemed speakers and delegates from across the world for the inaugural International Conference for Palliative and Dementia Care

The Conference, hosted by Northern Ireland Hospice, focused on how palliative and dementia services must work in partnership to care for people with end stage dementia and their carers.

Approximately 1,400 of the total 15,000 deaths in Northern Ireland each year are directly attributed to dementia. With an aging population, it is expected 60,000 people in Northern Ireland will be living with dementia – more than three times the current number.

Speaking at the event, Department of Health Permanent Secretary Richard Pengelly said: “Dementia now stands alongside cancer as one of the greatest challenges we face within health and social care. All of us, right across Government and the HSC need to work together with determination and compassion to address this life changing condition.

“Reforming adult care and support is a challenge for everyone.  Our society is undergoing significant and increasingly rapid change. 

“By 2050 it is estimated there will be an additional 250,000 people aged over 65, a three-fold increase in the number of people aged 85 and over and at the same time a shrinking workforce.  

“With expected greater demand for care and support and with continued pressure on budgets, solutions need to be found. I therefore welcome the opportunity for health professionals to come together to exchange, develop and consider findings on how palliative and dementia services can also work together more effectively to support each other in caring for patients and their families.”

Joanne Ballentine, Hospice Nurse Specialist and Dementia Lead at Northern Ireland Hospice, which in 2016 became the UK’s first Dementia Friendly Hospice providing high quality, dementia friendly, holistic palliative care, said: “Whilst palliative care has until now been largely associated with cancer, at Northern Ireland Hospice we are advocates for the central role palliative care can play in support of those living with a dementia diagnosis and their carers.

 “However, the marriage of these two worlds is not widely practiced and is a relatively new concept of work. For that reason, and building on our own palliative dementia work which we started in 2014, we felt it timely to bring dementia care and palliative together in one forum, to share learnings and generate discussion with those working in support of people with dementia, both here in Northern Ireland and internationally.

“Working together, I firmly believe that we can advance the movement of palliative dementia care. We can help people live well and die well and can create environments and programmes of care to make that possible.

“The positives evidenced here in Belfast during this inaugural conference on palliative dementia care is a step in the right direction and represents a new and exciting chapter in this combined care discipline.

“Along with our incredible line up of speakers the Conference could not have taken place without the support from our ambassador, Sir Martyn Lewis, and David Baddiel who speaks very candidly about his father living with a dementia.”

Speakers at the Conference, which was supported by Department of Health and Radius Housing, included Zena Aldridge from Dementia UK; Professor Colm Cunningham from Hammondcare Australia; Professor Joanne Reid from Queen’s University Belfast and Professor Jenny van der Steen from Leiden University Medical Center.

Key sessions at the Conference, which took place in Belfast’s Europa Hotel, included Use of Alternative Therapies for Symptom Management in Palliative Dementia; Giving Carers a Confident Voice and Enriching End of Life Experience; Advance Care Planning; and Volunteering in a Hospice as a Person Living with Dementia.

Hospice Nurse Specialist Joanne Ballentine added: “At Northern Ireland Hospice we now employ teams of specially trained healthcare professionals including nurses, doctors, social workers, chaplains, occupational therapists, creative therapists and physiotherapists. Working in a multi-disciplinary model, this supports the physical, mental and spiritual well-being of local people living with dementia, and their family.

“Late last year we also launched our Palliative Care Learning Academy which offers learning opportunities regarding delivering care to those facing end of life and those facing bereavement to clinical and non-clinical professionals.

“This Conference is just the beginning of how dementia care and palliative care can work together and complement each other in order to deliver quality, personalised care to all who need it.”

To find out more about how the Northern Ireland Hospice can support those living with dementia, please visit