Couple separated for first time in 63 years of marriage

Michael and Kathleen Devereaux
Michael and Kathleen Devereaux

An elderly couple, inseparable during 63 years of marriage, wept yesterday as they pleaded to be reunited after being split up by red tape governing the Fair Deal nursing home scheme.

Michael Devereaux, from Co Wexford, who will be 91 next month, and his wife Kathleen, who will be 85 tomorrow, said they are heartbroken after Michael secured a nursing home bed, but Kathleen did not.

Michael said that he misses his wife desperately, is waking at night and crying.

“We are separated for the first time in our lives, after 63 long years of marriage,” he told RTÉ’s Liveline.

“There are times I feel as if my head is going to burst. I try to switch off. We just love each other and it’s a nightmare for me, and I’m sure for my lovely wife.

“Did I ever think, we were loyal citizens all our lives, and terrible to think the same country has led us into this situation. I’m devastated. I love her very, very much and I miss her so much.”

Their son, Tom, said he applied to the HSE under the Fair Deal scheme to place the couple together in a nursing home, and that Kathleen’s case was supported by a letter from her GP which said she would benefit from long-term care.

Michael was accepted and has been in a double room in a nursing home in Wexford since April. The other bed has been vacant for several weeks.

But Kathleen’s application was rejected. The family said the HSE’s view was that she was able to live independently. Tom said an appeal against the decision was rejected.

Kathleen has been in hospital since April 28, where she was treated for a bacterial infection. She is ready to be discharged but she cannot go home.

The HSE has offered her two 30-minute home care slots twice a week, with the possibility that it could be increased to 10 hours a week.

However, Tom said he and his family just don’t have the skills required to care for Kathleen at her home.

“They’re [the HSE] not looking at the human being or their circumstances. The compassion is gone,” he said.

“Our father is in a nursing home in Wexford — in a double room, and the other bed is vacant. It just doesn‘t make sense.”

The story sparked outrage with callers.

A spokesperson for Health Minister Simon Harris said he has asked the HSE to look into the case urgently.

A spokesman for the HSE said it is very conscious of the circumstances in this case.

“The HSE can assure the public that its community healthcare organisation in the Wexford area will be liaising with the family concerned and will arrange to meet with them in an attempt at reaching a resolution as soon as possible,” he said.


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