Thursday 14 December 2017

Home care scheme will take another 'two to three years'

Shirley Thornton pictured with her son Lewis (10) and her mother Eva Thornton at her Mount Merrion home last night. Photo: Colin O’Riordan
Shirley Thornton pictured with her son Lewis (10) and her mother Eva Thornton at her Mount Merrion home last night. Photo: Colin O’Riordan

Laura Lynott and Eilish O'Regan

It will take up to three years for a new homecare scheme to be introduced, Minister for Older People Helen McEntee has said.

Yesterday it also emerged as few as 69 people with dementia have a home care package, despite 55,000 suffering from the illness.

Minister McEntee denied the homecare scheme was "reactionary" in the wake of the RTÉ documentary, We Need To Talk About Dad, which showed TV presenter Brendan Courtney's fight to get his elderly father care.

But McEntee admitted the process was set to be a lengthy and expensive one costing far in excess of €330m.

"You're talking two to three years for this to be introduced," Minister McEntee said.

"People are saying this is reactionary but it isn't, it started last year and if this can be done sooner, I'll be pushing for that.

Helen McEntee. Photo: Tom Burke
Helen McEntee. Photo: Tom Burke

"I think €330m is spent on home help hours now (by the State) but you're talking a substantial amount more for this scheme."

The extent of current home care packages, provided by the HSE, reveals the need for a new State scheme to provide financial supports for elderly who remain in their own houses, rather than opt for a nursing home.

Dementia sufferers and their carers are particularly in need of home care as most live in their own community.

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

The ongoing delay in the introduction of a State-subsidised scheme was criticised by Shirley Thornton (49), who looks after her mother, Eva (83), and cared for her father, Lewis (87) up until his death last May.

"My mother and so many other older people might not be here in three years - this just isn't good enough. We need help now," Ms Thornton, from Stillorgan, Co Dublin, said. "This Government are holding us to ransom for being who we are as Irish people, loyal, loving, doing something out of respect and love for our parents and elderly relatives.

"We know the majority of older people want to stay in their own homes and they live longer if they do.

"If we had had better support, my father could have been happier in his surroundings up until his death. Instead he was in and out of hospital until finally he died in hospital.

"My mother is now left without him and I am caring for her and I'm a single parent too. I wouldn't choose not to help my parents but it is too much to leave people to manage on their own and most people's parents want to stay in their own homes.

"If the Irish Government can get vast sums of money to pay towards private nursing homes, questions seriously need to be asked, why they can't help families in their own homes now.

"When dad died, our home health package was cut from 20 hours to 10 and mum is still looking for the person who would come into help on certain days.

"Everyone knows it is cheaper to keep older people at home, they are happier and less likely to pick up infections in hospital, or become bed blockers.

"Minister McEntee and this Government need to put money into communities instead of nursing homes."

Currently there are around 17,000 people across the country in receipt of home care packages which are provided free without means test by the HSE.

Irish Independent

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