'My illness is not a lifestyle choice - but HSE won't offer help'
Multiple sclerosis sufferer Sinead McArdle struggles to get out of bed due to pain and fatigue, but she has pleaded in vain with the HSE to provide her with some home help.
The 48-year-old from Ardee, Co Louth was diagnosed with relapse and remittance multiple sclerosis in 2005 but her condition has deteriorated in recent years.
"I applied first for home help in 2012 when my eldest son moved to Canada and my youngest was studying for his Leaving Cert.
"It was too hard for us to keep it all together.
"Just cooking one meal a day can exhaust me. I need help.
"My husband Joseph now has to just work part-time to care for me.
"My illness is not a life choice. A few hours of home help would make a huge difference," said Sinead.
She was speaking as Age Action led a group of organisations representing the elderly and people with a disability in protest outside Leinster House as the Dáil resumed.
The availability of home help services remains in crisis despite €40m secured by Health Minister Simon Harris to reduce the huge backlog of waiting lists.
The HSE confirmed that there are currently around 2,000 in the queue for home help.
A spokeswoman said that they are being prioritised "according to need".
Priority is being given to people who are ready to be discharged from hospital, but need home support.
Currently 48,000 benefit from home help and another 21,000 have a home care package.
However, Justin Moran of Age Action said there is an urgent need to invest in home care in the Budget to cope with growing demands.
He said recent research found that more than half of older people could remain in their own homes instead of going into long-term care if more support was available.
"Home care is also vital in supporting Ireland's 200,000 family carers, who provide the vast majority of care for people at home.
"They provide nearly €4bn worth of care annually."
Speaking at the event, Moira Skelly of Palmerstown in Dublin, a carer for her daughter Ciara (21) who is profoundly disabled and has the mental age of a two-year-old, said her home respite hours have been cut due to a lack of funding.
The four hours of respite she gets are her lifeline.
"They are constantly under threat of erosion," she added.
Ciara needs 24-hour care and Moira must wash and dress her.
She has multiple disabilities including epilepsy, autism and cerebral palsy.
Another carer, Shirley Thorton from Stillorgan in Dublin, who looks after her mother while also raising her own 10-year-old son, said the 10 hours of home care a week is simply not enough.
She has been told by the HSE her mother needs additional hours but that the budget in her area "is exhausted".
The constant fight for some supports is extremely draining and it has had a serious impact on her personal life and well-being.
The extra €40m for home care is supposed to deliver an additional 270,000 hours of home help and an extra 2,000 home care packages.