Monday 19 August 2019

'My father was branded as a bed blocker' - Brendan Courtney speaks out on family struggle caring for late father

Home care: Fashion designer and TV presenter Brendan Courtney
Home care: Fashion designer and TV presenter Brendan Courtney

Aoife Walsh

Broadcaster Brendan Courtney said his father was "effectively branded as a bed blocker" after suffering a stroke that left him disabled and in need of specialised care.

Speaking at the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) and Economic and Social Research Institute (ERSI) report launch today, he said: "My personal journey, like many families, after my fathers stroke overnight, not just my dad's life but all our lives changed.

"We not only had to deal with the trauma, sadness and upset of our father being critically ill but now we had the stress and confusion as we attempted to understand his care needs, adapt as a family, come together as best we could and figure out a way forward - while not killing each other.

"After dad's initial treatment, it was a waiting game to see what kind of recovery he would make and it wasn't great news. He was going to need 24 hour care, but we dealt with it," Courtney said.

"This was three months post-stroke. It was then I started to notice suggestions and comments from the hospital social worker and I also started to see the bed manager appear at these meetings which always felt very strange to me.

"We discovered afterwards we were just being pushed out of the hospital but with no care plan. And just bear in mind, none of my family work in health care so this was all totally new."

He continued: "So my father was effectively branded, as I now understand, a bed blocker. The only direction we were given was to navigate, and I'm just going to be honest, the ridiculously complex and confusing and most unuser-friendly funding system on the planet - the not so fair, Fair Deal scheme.-

"We had no care support, and we were running out of the one thing my father didn't have - time."

Courtney, whose hit 2017 TV documentary 'We Need to Talk About Dad' explored his family struggle with his father's failing mental health, said his father was left "profoundly disabled" after his stroke and needed specialised care.

After the documentary aired, Courtney said: "I have literally met thousands of adult children who step up to fill the gap and are now primary carers for their elderly parents, while many are still in full time employement."

Speaking to, Courtney reassured primary carers that "there is an acknowledgement happening in the general ether that wasn't there before that people are now coming to grips with understanding that if not now, soon. Somebody in the family will have to care for somebody. Who's it going to be? How can we legislate and protect that person who is going to take up that job?

"Just know that we are aware of it now, and we're talking about it and we're trying to help."

The report launched today, 'Caring and Unpaid Work in Ireland', found that Irish adults spend an average of 16 hours per week caring for others, with 45pc of women and 29pc of men providing unpaid care on a daily basis. A total of 55pc of those providing care work are in employment.

The findings highlighted that Ireland has the third highest weekly hours of unpaid work for both men and women across the EU.

The ERSI and IHREC are calling on the government to acknowledge a need for changes in social and employment policies that support carers and facilitate the combination of care and employment, as well as encouraging greater male participation, as well as the connection between caring responsibility and gender equality in the labour market.

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