STAFF at a hospital were astounded to discover €60,000 in cash carefully wrapped around a male patient's upper body.
The elderly man informed medical personnel treating him that he was terrified to leave his life savings at home in case he was robbed -- and was equally afraid to lodge the money in a bank because of the current financial crisis.
The man was admitted to a Cork city hospital several weeks ago for treatment and nursing staff discovered the money when they were conducting an examination of the patient.
Gardai have refused to identify the man or the city hospital for security reasons.
While medical staff were astounded by the cash he was carrying, they admitted that it is not unusual to see elderly patients arriving for treatment carrying their life-savings on their person.
Last year, one elderly woman presented herself for treatment at an accident and emergency unit with €5,000 sewn into her clothing. Gardai stressed that the financial crisis -- and the collapse of banks -- had exacerbated the existing fears of elderly people.
"The tragedy is that some people think the only option they have left is to keep large sums of cash on their person," one garda said.
"It is an open secret that people have been withdrawing their life savings and hiding the money in their homes. There has been an increase in the number of burglaries with many elderly living in isolated areas targeted," he added.
Of even greater concern is the fact that elderly people are equally distrusting of relatives as they are of financial institutions.
The trend of elderly people carrying large sums of cash has resulted in a spate of hospital-based thefts.
Gardai have now appealed to elderly people to follow simple safety rules if they are determined to carry large sums of cash on their person.
"If they are insisting on bringing their life savings with them rather than putting the money in a bank or credit union or even placing it with trusted relatives, they should inform hospital staff of what they are doing," a garda source said.
"That way proper arrangements can be put in place -- under no circumstances whatsoever should people bring large sums of cash into hospital and leave it undeclared in their clothing or their personal bags."
Gardai also urged people to keep an eye out for their elderly neighbours.