Tuesday 15 October 2019

Wife with Alzheimer's lay down beside fatally hurt husband after fall

(stock photo)
(stock photo)

Louise Roseingrave

An inquest has heard how a woman with Alzheimer's lay down beside her fatally injured husband after he suffered a fall "to keep him company".

The couple were found lying side by side at the bottom of the stairs by their daughter when she called to the house. Tragically, 86-year-old John O'Reilly suffered fatal injuries in the fall and died five days later.

An inquest into his death at Dublin Coroner's Court heard he had been the primary carer for his wife. She is now living in a nursing home.

The couple's daughter, Martina Cooke, told the inquest she arrived at the family home at Edenmore Park, Raheny, Dublin, at around 10am on January 5, 2017.

She was shocked and upset to find her parents lying on the hall floor. Her father had fallen and could not get up.

There was some blood on the radiator, but her father told her that her mother was uninjured. "I was worried when I saw the blood but Dad said Mum was alright, that she had laid down to keep him company," Ms Cooke said.

"He was her full-time carer. She wouldn't have realised what was going on," added Ms Cooke.

Mr O'Reilly was transferred from the house to Beaumont Hospital by ambulance. Scans revealed he had suffered multiple fractured ribs, with bleeding into the chest and air in the chest as a result.

Doctors decided to insert a chest drain but Mr O'Reilly developed kidney failure and pneumonia and his condition deteriorated over a number of days. Unfortunately, he died in hospital five days later on January 10.

A post-mortem was carried out on Mr O'Reilly and it gave his cause of death as pneumonia due to rib fractures due to a fall with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) as a contributory factor.

Deputy Coroner Dr Crona Gallagher returned a verdict of accidental death and offered her condolences to Mr O'Reilly's family.

Speaking to the Irish Independent after the inquest, spokesman for Age Action Gerard Scully said it was a very tragic case. "It highlights the role of carers in looking after vulnerable older people and the fact they do need support and greater investment in community services.

"Every older person, whether they think of themselves as vulnerable or not, should think about getting a personal alarm."

"The fact that there are grants for it needs to be highlighted," he added.

Irish Independent

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