Wednesday 26 November 2014

Hellish wait for nursing home in Harney's 'Fair Deal'

Published 27/07/2014 | 02:30

Mary Harney: Former minister responsible for the 'Fair Deal' scheme
Mary Harney: Former minister responsible for the 'Fair Deal' scheme

A 76-year-old man who suffers from dementia was told he would have to wait at least three months for a bed in a nursing home under Fair Deal - the scheme launched by the then Health Minister Mary Harney in 2006 to ensure that families would not have to worry about the cost of nursing home care.

The waiting time for a bed under Fair Deal has shot up to almost four months since last February.

This has forced families to cough up for expensive nursing home care, even though they qualify for a bed and financial assistance under Fair Deal. It can cost more than €2,000 a week for a bed in a nursing home.

Patrick Galvin, who has lived in Wicklow for most of his life, applied for a bed in a nursing home through the Fair Deal scheme last May. Mr Galvin was approved for a bed in mid-June but was advised that it could be September or later by the time he gets one.

"My dad was admitted to hospital with dementia in April 2014 as his condition had deteriorated and it was no longer possible to keep him safe and care for him at home," said Joan Howard, Mr Galvin's daughter.

"He didn't want to be in hospital. He had no concept of where home was. He was extremely distressed and confused and was slowly losing the will to live. We were told that due to budgetary pressures, there is a national waiting list [for a bed under Fair Deal] which is currently running at ten to twelve weeks.

"We've managed to scrape together a few weeks money to cover private care for Dad and he was transferred to a nursing home last Monday because we all felt that if he wasn't moved, he would no longer be with us."

Many families who are waiting for a nursing home bed under Fair Deal have been forced to look after their relatives at home.

"Families are trying to juggle jobs with minding their elderly mother or father," said Eamon Timmins, a spokesman for the elderly lobby group, Age Action. "Many elderly people have been trapped in hospital as they can't stay at home and can't get the nursing home care they need. A hospital is not the right place for someone who needs nursing home care."

A spokeswoman for the HSE confirmed that those on the waiting list for financial assistance under Fair Deal could experience delays getting a bed. "The scheme continues to take on new clients within the limits of the resources available," said the spokeswoman.

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