'I never thought I would face selling my farm to pay for my wife's nursing home bills'
When Joe Carroll’s wife was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis a few years ago, the family never thought they might have to sell their farm to pay nursing home bills.
Today Joe is protesting outside the Department of Health with the Irish Farmers Association (IFA) to highlight what he says is a huge injustice to farmers in the Fair Deal nursing home scheme.
“I’ve always paid my bills. More than that, when we had good years milking cows, I made sure to have some savings. They were to help my other two children, the ones not getting the farm.”
Now, the Offaly farmer says none of his children will be left with much as his life savings are whittling away as he pays thousands of euros every month in nursing home bills for his wife.
Jane was diagnosed with MS in 2013 and Joe tried to look after her at home, but the burden got too much and four years ago the family made the decision she would be better off in a nursing home receiving full-time care. “The home help offered amounted to a half hour, two or three mornings a week. It wasn’t enough to do anything,” according to Joe.
Now Joe is paying over €20,000 a year in nursing homes fees and says his savings will soon be gone. “Then we face a sign being put up outside the farm to pay the fees,” he said.
Under the Fair Deal Scheme the State can only claim 22.5pc of the value of the family home, under a three-year cap on the asset. However, farm families and small businesses owners face 7.5pc of the value of their land being used annually to pay nursing home fees. There is no cap on this, meaning an entire farm could have to be sold to pay the bills.
It had been expected that legislation would be changed in the last Budget, but farm families are still waiting.