DEPUTY Michael Noonan has spoken movingly of his wife Florence's brave battle against Alzheimer's and the need for a national strategy against the disease as the population ages.
The Limerick TD struggled to fight back the tears as he told Pat Kenny on RTE's Frontline programme of how the Noonan family cared for Florence for as long as they could before finally making the difficult decision to place her in the care of a Limerick nursing home.
Florence, who formerly taught at St Paul's National School in Dooradoyle, was only in her early 50s when she first developed signs of early-onset Alzheimer's but Deputy Noonan explained that the disease is difficult to diagnose and by the time he was elected Fine Gael leader in 2001, doctors believed Florence was suffering from depression.
Florence's mother had been afflicted by Alzheimer's and "she was always fearful" that she might have it too, Deputy Noonan said.
He spoke movingly of how her memory deteriorated and how she began to lose her independence.
Deputy Noonan had originally been asked to contribute to an RTE special on the plight of family carers last week.
"They asked me to come on last week," Deputy Noonan told the Limerick Leader this Wednesday.
"But I was actually in France where my daughter lives in the belief that Munster were going to be in the Heineken Cup Final. But I saw the programme later and when I saw the experiences of other people, I felt I owed it to them to speak of mine."
"We are no longer caring for her at home so that gives me more freedom to talk about it and in a way that doesn't make it look like I was making some political point on something that concerns my family," said Deputy Noonan.
The Limerick TD said it was now time to formulate a national plan on Alzheimer's on a par with the cancer strategy and urged people to support the Alzheimer's Society, which has local day care centres in Garryowen and Adare.
INTERVIEW WITH MICHAEL NOONAN IN THE WEEKEND LIMERICK LEADER