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Independent advocates are crucial to protection of elderly

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It WAS with great sadness and grave concern that I read the reports in your paper concerning Rostrevor Nursing Home.

It was only last Monday, June 6, that I marked the sixth anniversary of my father's death, which occurred at Leas Cross Nursing Home.

He died in very difficult circumstances in the week following the 'Prime Time' programme, which was broadcast on May 30, 2005.

Reading your reports caused me to revisit those very painful memories.

I was at the time of my father's death wearing two hats; firstly I was a daughter and secondly I was a qualified nurse.

I can remember feeling so helpless, frustrated and powerless as I lived in fear that my father might suffer more when I tentatively asked or suggested that he required more nursing care, nutrition and even a consultation with the local GP.

I was seen by the staff to be over-anxious and possibly a nuisance.

I must add that his private care was very expensive at that time, and yet I found it necessary to carry out most of his care myself.

I took up the gauntlet approximately a year later, as I could not grieve appropriately for my father. I became involved in an independent group, 'The Forum for Older People', which commenced in late 2006.

We have to date trained nationally 150 independent advocates at the National College of Ireland to a FETAC Level 6 accreditation, and they are now active in residential care homes.

Access to an independent advocate must be available to every older person, otherwise there is a real fear of further tragedies in nursing homes.

Mary E Fletcher-Smith
Advisory Consultant Special Projects, Chairperson
Sub-Advocacy Committee
National Advocacy Programme Alliance, Monkstown, Dublin

Irish Independent