Dementia home care cuts: ‘My father has to be minded like a child’

Rónán Mullen with his parents, Tom and Maura, in 2003.

Irish Examiner reporter, Claire O'Sullivan, reports today that funding for home-care packages for people with dementia fell €11m in four years up to 2015 while nursing-home care investment rose €84m. As part of her research she talked to Senator Rónán Mullen’s who has just moved back to Galway to help his mother care for his father, Tom, who is suffering from Alzheimers.

SENATOR Rónán Mullen’s dad, Tom, is one of the lucky ones. He has his wife, Maura, a nurse, to take care of him and has his three children living close by in Galway.

Some days Tom Mullen gets Rónán’s name right. Other days he thinks that he’s his brother, not his son. Rónán and his family don’t like to correct him as they try to minimise stress in their home.

They watch what Tom’s eating, that he’s eating enough; they help him shower and dress and make sure he’s safe. They also evaluate dips and peaks in the 81-year-old’s mood and behaviour from day to day. “If there is a lot of activity in the day, he can get into a hyper mood,” says the Independent senator.

“He’s a child and has to be minded as a child,” says Rónán.

“My mother is carrying the cross though. I see the rest of us as being like Simon of Cyrene-lite.”

Rónán is now based in Ahascragh, Co Galway, again so he can help his mother and sibling. “I think it makes a difference for her emotionally to have us around. She’s much stronger for having us around. She’s the player that’s always on the pitch — we step on and off.”

Many of the 55,000 people diagnosed with dementia in Ireland don’t have such a support network and it’s because of this that the Alzheimer Society is calling for a €67m investment in home care supports for people with dementia who are living in the community.

They argue that such supports will keep people living in their homes and out of nursing home care.

Rónán backs the society’s campaign and he also wants pathways to care for people with early onset dementia need to be clarified.

“Much of the care for people with dementia is accessed through older people care; early onset can access it via disability services but the pathway to these services needs to be clearer; we need evenness of access,” he says.

Tom isn’t in the latter stages of Alzheimer’s yet and so he’s “largely content”.

“He’ll do worrying and fidgety things… we could find him tiling with mats in the bathroom, stacking turf inside the house,” Rónán tells RTÉ radio.

They have to lock the exterior doors of the house in case he decides to wander off. “We’re helping and learning all the time.”

Rónán would love to see his mother take a holiday. She isn’t so sure. He doesn’t want her to stop enjoying her own life because of her caring role.

“We want her to have a life when she can. She is 72 and we don’t want any windows closed as regards going off on a holiday. She has energy and health,” he says.

“Such opportunities are vital for people caring for family members.”

READ MORE:  Funding for dementia home care cut by €11m


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