Wednesday 19 June 2019

'What kind of country asks someone with Alzheimer's to be a carer?' - plea for help

Dementia advocate Helen Rochford Brennan. Photo: Frank McGrath
Dementia advocate Helen Rochford Brennan. Photo: Frank McGrath
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Leading dementia advocate Helen Rochford Brennan, who was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's eight years ago, has revealed her upset at being refused vital HSE home help she needs to help care for her frail husband.

Ms Rochford Brennan (69), of Tubbercurry, Co Sligo, and her husband Sean (74) have just half-an-hour's home help a week but were turned down for any more despite her suffering memory lapses and being at risk of forgetting to give him his medication.

"I forget if I have given him his medicine. I am really struggling every day to try to cook," she said. "I can make bread and forget to put in the soda or make a curry and not put in the curry powder. I have huge memory problems and they create a difficulty for me looking after my husband."

Her husband, who suffers from heart failure, diabetes and chronic breathing problems, has been hospitalised several times with double pneumonia. He needs surgery on his shoulder after a recent fall and will require help with dressing for weeks.

Ms Rochford Brennan had to leave a highly successful career in the tourism and disability sectors in 2011 when she got the devastating diagnosis of early onset Alzheimer's.

Since then she had become a dynamic campaigner, supported by the Alzheimer's Society and has inspired other advocates to fight for better dementia support, giving hours of unpaid work to the health service.

Her plight comes as the HSE has signalled it is putting a virtual cap on home help spending for new applicants over the coming months.

"I applied for home help but was very upset when we got just half-an-hour a week," she said. "It had no consideration for the fact that I have Alzheimer's. That half-hour was to assist Sean with a shower, which I am well able to do. But I cannot remember to tell him to take his medication or to see if he takes his oxygen. All I am asking is that we have half-an-hour a day and know when I am away I know that Sean is supported."

Their only son, Martin, works in London.

She said there was a lack of joined-up thinking from the HSE: "What kind of a country is it that asks a person with Alzheimer's to be a carer?"

The HSE spokesman said managers needed to ensure their level of homecare provision was in line with their budget. "Local managers must ensure that the total number of hours being provided does not exceed targeted levels. This may impact on their ability to provide new hours into the system."

Irish Independent

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