Thursday 27 April 2017

'We're the first generation to face decision on care for our parents' - RTÉ's Brendan Courtney

TV presenter Brendan Courtney and his family faced the toughest decision of their lives so far – how to care for his father, Frank, after his stroke. Photo: Andres Poveda
TV presenter Brendan Courtney and his family faced the toughest decision of their lives so far – how to care for his father, Frank, after his stroke. Photo: Andres Poveda

Laura Lynott

Brendan Courtney has been inundated with stories from members of the public who share his family's heartbreaking struggle to care for his elderly father.

The RTÉ presenter revealed how his family has battled to gain access for his father Frank (75) to the State's complex Fair Deal scheme.

Brendan (43), from Tallaght in Dublin, said his family were "overwhelmed, honoured and humbled" at the reaction to the documentary shown on Monday night, 'We Need To Talk About Dad'.

He welcomed a commitment from the Department of Health to put together a public consultation process on care for the elderly that came after the programme was aired.

"I really hope my dad's documentary effects change with the Fair Deal scheme and that families start the conversation earlier to think about planning," Brendan said.

"I feel very good about it, dad is really happy.

Brendan with Frank and his mother Nuala on his 21st birthday
Brendan with Frank and his mother Nuala on his 21st birthday

"I fought for him, as all my family did, because we are a tight-knit working-class Dublin family - that's what we do."

The former 'Off The Rails' host said that after the documentary aired, his father Frank thanked him for helping to highlight the issue.

"He rubbed my face and said: 'I can't believe you said you love me on TV. I love you enough for the both of us'," Brendan said.

"He's a kind, loving, gentle giant and my parents did something very special for me growing up.

"My parents showed me every day that they loved me unconditionally and I was very lucky that no matter what, I knew they adored and loved me."

There was vast public support for Brendan and his family after the documentary, for shining a light on the troubling issue. Brendan said: "I'm overwhelmed, humbled and honoured that so many people have shared their stories with me since it aired."

During the show, Brendan became emotional as he discussed caring for his father at home or bringing him to a care home after Frank suffered a stroke, leaving him paralysed as a result.

Fight

The family discussed options, including remortgaging their homes, to access the appropriate care.

Frank is currently being looked after in a facility offering him round-the-clock care but it was a long fight.

"He's being very well looked after where he is now and he will remain there now," Brendan said.

"We've looked at ways to take from the house for a downstairs loo but we will see what happens now.

"I feel we did the right thing.

"This documentary has started a conversation we needed to have in Ireland.

"I believe my generation is the first in Ireland to have actual choice, to be in a situation where planning is an option.

"My parents' generation didn't even have options for planning children.

"We are the first generation to have this talk and be in this position where we can make decisions, but the decisions shouldn't be made so tough."

Brendan said that across the country, older people are "happier being cared for at home".

"No one has been in touch from the Government since the documentary aired but the Department of Health released a commitment to put together a consultation to talk about home care.

"Our situation is we are fortunate he's in the facility he's in now.

"We've come through a tough time but he's comfortable."

Irish Independent

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