A number of headlines on last week’s newspapers give no cause for celebration for elderly people living in Ireland.
Headlines such as “Dáil must debate plan to cut home help hours”, “4,000 elderly wait 24 hours in A&E” and “Revised Fair Deal rules on fees to be backdated,” make for depressing news for our vulnerable elderly. In addition to this, according to a recent report in the Irish Examiner, the government is now exploring ways to entice older people to move out of family homes in order to release housing stock to young families.
Why are successive governments so preoccupied with nursing home care as almost the sole response to meeting the care needs of elderly people who require support in their daily life? I believe that this insensitive and rigid approach does not reflect the wishes and needs of many elderly people. I expect that if there was a poll conducted amongst the over 50s the majority of people would choose a range of supports within their community, opting to remain living in their own homes, in their own communities, near family, friends and neighbours.
We are the first generation of children who have experienced our dependent parents almost routinely spending their final days and years in nursing homes. I am not disputing the kindness and care offered to elderly people in nursing homes, including my own relatives, but this is frequently not how these, once competent and hard-working people, wanted to end their days and it is not what we wanted for them.
Surely, we need a range of flexible responses to support people with care needs, a continuum of supports including comprehensive and easily assessed home care packages, supported community housing and nursing homes care for those who require the same.
A continuum of care offers a dignified and respectful response to the care needs of elderly people and people with disabilities who have daily care needs as no one size fits all.
I congratulate the Minister for Older People Jim Daly’s plans to explore retirement villages as a realistic option for many elderly people. He states in his article in the Irish Examiner, earlier this year, that “care provided to people in their later years needs to evolve and reform and the long-term plan for care is to ensure older people can have their own front door for as long as possible.”
To conclude I would like our legislators to develop a creative vision for the care of dependent elderly and disabled that offers autonomy, respect, dignity and choice to people. They, too, will be elderly one day and may want to continue to live in their own homes, with adequate supports available to facilitate this.
This reader's opinion was originally published in the letters page of the Irish Examiner print edition on 6 July 2019.