Saturday 23 March 2019

Family resisting plan for brother to be cared for 75km away from elderly mum

Celine Hurley wants her intellectually disabled brother Ken to be cared for locally for the sake of their elderly mother
Celine Hurley wants her intellectually disabled brother Ken to be cared for locally for the sake of their elderly mother

Alan O'Keeffe

The family of a man with intellectual disability is resisting efforts to send him to a nursing home more than 70km away from his family home.

Ken Hurley (49) has been ready for discharge from a mental health unit at Cork University Hospital for more than two months.

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But efforts by the HSE to send him to Co Limerick for nursing home care have upset his family, who said he should be closer to the home of his 85-year-old mother Elizabeth in Cork city.

"It's important that Ken is not sent too far away so that our mother, who is quite frail, can visit him often," said Ken's sister Celine.

The family's plight has led to a public call for more resources for the care of people with disabilities.

Ken has lived all his life with his mother in the family home in Bishopstown, Cork.

After attending a school for pupils with special needs, Ken later made daily visits to an adult day centre run by the Cope Foundation. In early 2017, he stopped attending the day centre as his mental health began to deteriorate. It was suspected he could be suffering from early onset dementia, said Celine.

In August 2017, he was admitted to the mental health unit at Cork University Hospital after he began to harm himself. After six months, he was transferred to a nursing home in east Cork, 30 minutes drive from the family home.

When he began to suffer outbursts at the nursing home in August last year, he was transferred back to the mental health unit. He remained a patient there and in November a chest infection developed into pneumonia and he was treated in the intensive care unit in the main hospital.

He recovered following treatment and was returned to the hospital's mental health unit in early December and was later deemed ready for discharge. Health officials have been seeking to discharge him since December, she said.

His elderly mother is no longer able to provide care for Ken in the family home.

"The HSE's delayed discharge team want to sent him to nursing homes in Co Limerick, one is 75km from the family home and another 86km away. It's not fair to expect our 85-year-old mother to travel so far to see her son," said Ms Hurley. "We want residential care closer to home."

The family also believe he is too young to live with elderly patients in a nursing home.

Ms Hurley said officials informed them charges of €1,365 a week could be incurred for Ken's continued stay in the mental health unit.

A spokeswoman for the HSE's Cork Kerry Community Healthcare said the personal details of patients are never disclosed for ethical and legal reasons. "However, we can say that our teams and staff have engaged fully with Mr Hurley and his family, and will continue to do so," she said.

"As a general comment, when someone has complex medical and mental health needs, our priority is to identify a suitable residential placement that can meet all of those needs. Various factors will be considered, including the need for appropriate medical care, appropriate psychiatric care and the need for contact with friends and family.

"While we are not commenting on these particular circumstances, it should be noted that in particular cases where there are very complex needs, only certain facilities will be able to provide the right care," she added.

Catherine Cox of Family Carers Ireland said: "What is urgently required is a plan for the future care and housing needs of people with disabilities and investment in a range of independent living and community-based residential centres.

"This would allow people with a disability to live with dignity and independence and their carers can have peace of mind knowing their adult child will be looked after when they are no long able to provide care."

Sunday Independent

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