Thursday 22 March 2018

Parents of adults with intellectual disability tell Minister of need for respite

The plight faced by elderly parents of adults with intellectual disability who have been unable to get a break from caring for their children due to the lack of respite services in Louth was brought to the attention of Health Minister Simon Harris when he visited the Louth County Hospital recently.

David Lally, a founding member of the Dundalk Parents and Friends Group, told the Minister for the 'desperate need' for respite services and appealed to him to make funds available so that a respite centre can be opened in Dundalk.

He explained that a suitable house has been identified in Dundalk and has been purchased by a charity that specialises in the provision of services for people with an intellectual disability.

However, as the HSE has not committed any funding to staff and run the service, the centre cannot open.

He stressed highlighted the pressures that many families face if they cannot get regular respite.

'There's a huge need for respite services in the county and there are a lot of lone parents, many in their 'seventies or older, caring for their adult children who are not able to get a break due to the lack of respite services for adults with intellectual disabilities in the county,' David said.

'Minister Harris wanted to know how long it would take to get the centre up and running and I told him that if we got the funding, it would be ready in three or four months.'

The respite centre will be able to accommodate five adults at time, giving 60 to 70 families the opportunity to have a much needed break from the arduous task of caring for often demanding adult children.

It will be open on a 24/7 basis and will employ around 16 to 20 staff to provide care for the people staying there.

Research shows that giving carers a respite break helps prevent burnout and stress leading to crisis and expensive emergency admissions to hospital. Unfortunately adult respite services have not been available in County Louth for over four years and a number of parents have started a campaign to have it restored.

'The Minister agreed to raise the issue with the HSE and try to secure funding to get the service underway,' said David.

The meeting with Minister Harris was arranged by Peter Fitzpatrick, Finn Gael TD and David said that 'all local politicians fully support the provision of a respite service in Dundalk.'

Councillor Maeve Yore has also been very active in pressing the HSE to fund this service.

Mary Darcy from the Dundalk Parents and Friends Group raised the issue at a recent conference in Dublin which was opened by Minister for Disability Finian McGrath, stressing the importance of respite services for carers.

Mary explained to the conference that many parents provide the mainstay of disability services and as they get older they deserve to have regular respite and a chance to relax. If this is not provided these carers are at risk and can become unwell as a result.

Both Mary and David are very enthusiastic about the house that has been identified in Dundalk and feel it is an opportunity not to be missed.

David said: 'If we do not ensure that this house is brought into use as a respite facility for adults with intellectual disability then we are failing in our duty to these families. I urge anyone with influence to approach their local councillors and TDs and urge them to help us get this over the line.'

The issue was also raised in the Dáil by Fianna Fáil TD Declan Breathnach spoke in the Dáil who asked Taoiseach Leo Varadkar that will the government 'face up to the extreme crisis that exists because of lack of services for people with disabilities, particularly in Louth.'

He accused Minister McGrath of stone-walling the people of Louth on the 'The people of Louth cannot be left to cope any longer. This is a crisis situation.'

'We need action on this issue, and not just the usual fudging of the issues and empty promises. I will continue to work on behalf of people with disabilities and in need of respite care, and will examine the figures I have requested when they arrive on my desk,' concluded Deputy Breathnach.

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