Chuck Feeney and The Atlantic Philanthropies is making new grants totaling close to $20 million to tackle Alzheimer’s and dementia in the Republic of Ireland. These grants are the subject of ongoing discussions with the government for matching funds.

Irish American Feeney, who is Atlantic’s Founding Chairman and a New Jersey native, has donated $7.5 billion to philanthropic causes worldwide. He was also instrumental in convincing Warren Buffett and Bill Gates to agree to his “Giving While Living” concept. Buffett has called him “his hero.”

The grants are being made to the Health Service Executive ($15.4 m) and the Health Research Board ($4.6m)

Christopher G. Oechsli, President and CEO of the Atlantic Philanthropies, said that the foundation’s final grants, in Ireland and elsewhere, are targeted at select challenges that Atlantic has historically addressed.

“These grants are being made for what our Founding Chairman Chuck Feeney calls ‘the highest and best use’ of our limited remaining funds,” he said.

Mary Sutton, Country Director for the Republic of Ireland at the Atlantic Philanthropies, described dementia as one of the greatest health and social care challenges of the 21st century. "We are good at devising strategy in Ireland, but the key is implementation and follow through."

Oechsli added: "Our final grants will draw on several of the issues, themes and most effective approaches we have applied in our three decades of grantmaking, and will help leverage and amplify the expertise and resources of others in these fields, including government."

"In the global fight back against the epidemic that is dementia the aspiration is that Ireland could be at the forefront of this," Sutton said. She added that key elements are the support of research and giving a voice to sufferers and their caregivers.

Dementia is the leading cause of dependency and disability among the older population (World Health Organization [WHO], 2012). The number of people living with dementia worldwide is estimated at 35.6 million, a number set to double by 2030 and triple by 2050 (WHO). In the Republic of Ireland, it is estimated that 42,000 people have dementia, which is projected to rise to 68,000 by 2021 and 152,000 by 2046. The overall cost of dementia in ROI is estimated at more than $2.3 billion annually.

Since 2004, the Atlantic Philanthropies have funded several gerontological centres and built a base in research and advocacy. These foundational investments included a small number for dementia to build research and develop prevention models at Trinity College Dublin; support the Alzheimer Society of Ireland (ASI) to build an effective advocacy platform; and fund research, education and training at St. James’s Hospital.

Atlantic’s $12.8 million spend on dementia in the Republic of Ireland since 2012 has leveraged an additional $7.8 million from the HSE. These investments were designed primarily to build momentum towards a strong Government-led national dementia strategy impacting key areas of practice and policy.