Farm assets and property should be assessed the same under the Fair Deal nursing home scheme, said ICSA rural development chairman Seamus Sherlock.
Under the scheme, applicants must pay 80% of their annual income plus 7.5% of the value of their assets towards their care.
The homeowner’s asset-based contribution is capped at three years — no more than 22.5% of the value of their home.
The ICSA wants a similar three-year cap to apply to farm assets. Under present terms, a farmer going into a nursing home for10 years would have to pay 75% of the value of his/ her farm.
“As there is no cap for land, a farmer who took over a farm from his father could be exposed to an unlimited liability on the farm at the death of the parent,” said Seamus Sherlock.
“This could arise where a farmer suffering dementia requires 10 years care in a nursing home as it is not feasible to look after him at home.
“A 10-year stay in a nursing home could lead to a bill of €500,000. The first port of call will be to deduct 80% of the patient’s income but in most cases, this will be the state old age pension, or about €9,500 to be set against the annual bill, leaving over €40,000 a year to be deducted from the value of the farm.”
The ICSA says few farms generate enough income to build a fund to cover nursing home costs. Thus, the more likely outcome in the above scenario is that the farm would have to be sold to pay the Fair Deal bill.
“It is clear that the Fair Deal Scheme should not have the effect of putting a farm out of business,” said Mr Sherlock.
“I know of a case where Trojan efforts are being made to keep a parent at home and cared for. The parent is suffering from extreme dementia.
“While the decision to keep the parent at home is complex, it is the case that the Fair Deal Scheme weighs heavily on the decision. This should not happen. ICSA believes the three-year 22.5% cap should apply to farm assets and will continue to campaign for farmers on this issue.”
The ICSA says there are exceptions; for instance, whereby there is a sudden illness or disability and the successor has been farming at that time. In the case of a farm transfer, to qualify for the scheme, five years must have elapsed between transfer and the nursing home care requirement.
“We believe that this imposes an impossible strain on farm families who want to see their relative getting the necessary care but where the Fair Deal Scheme sows the seeds of doom for the long-term future of the farm,” said Mr Sherlock.
Meanwhile, minister of state for mental health and older people, Helen McEntee, is pushing to extend the nursing home scheme to home-help packages.
However, such a move would also face the similar hurdles as property and land would still be taken into account when calculating the individual’s contribution to home help.
In a recent Irish Examiner interview, Ms McEntee said this aspect would have to be worked out, but said she favoured the extension of the Fair Deal scheme to cover home-help provision.
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