The Government is looking at extending the Fair Deal scheme to allow people receive care in their own home.
Helen McEntee, minister of state for mental health and older people has said that provision of care for an increasing elderly population needs to be prioritised and is now pushing to extend the nursing home scheme to home help packages.
The Fair Deal Scheme was introduced in 2009 and provides financial support to people who need long-term nursing home care.
However, extending this to cover people who want to remain at home may be problematic as assets, including land and property, are taken into account when calculating how much residents of nursing homes pay towards their care under the current scheme.
In an interview with the Irish Examiner, Ms McEntee said this aspect would have to be worked out but said she favoured the extension of the Fair Deal scheme.
The Meath East TD said: “There needs to be, in my own view, a similar model for home help as there is for the Fair Deal.
“Obviously, the Fair Deal scheme is based on your land, your home, so if you are actually living at home, there are hurdles and there are legal aspects that you have to try and get around,” she said.
“But I think that’s something that we need to address, and we do need to do it quickly, we can’t sit on this for 10 or 15 years because in the next 10 or 15 years, our elderly population, people over 60, 70 and 80, will have doubled and quadrupled.
“So this is something that we need to work on and I think the will is there,” she said.
Ms McEntee said the Government would also be focusing on providing more health services in communities to take some of the pressure off overcrowded hospitals and emergency departments.
Fianna Fáil’s Willie O’Dea has already introduced a bill in the Dáil to amend the Fair Deal scheme to make home care packages a statutory right.
Mr O’Dea said the bill, which will be debated when the Dáil resumes, would allow home care services to be offered to people in place of long-term residential care.
“The vast majority of older people would like to remain in their own home for as long as possible. However, many older people are being denied this due to a lack of home care packages.
“As a consequence of this, many older people who would ordinarily live at home if they had the necessary home care support are instead being forced to live in nursing homes,” he said.
Ms McEntee added that overall health funding now has to transfer from hospitals into communities but this significant shift would take time: “We need to move the dependency away from the acute hospital setting.
“The aim is to bring more supports to the primary care setting, sometimes people go into hospitals when they don’t need to be there at all, for something simple that can get done within their community and that’s why we are investing in primary care centres, that’s why we are investing in more staff, more nurses and more doctors within the communities.
“Sometimes, if a person goes into hospital with something minor, they catch something else and then they actually end up getting sicker and then they are told they have to go into a nursing home.
“Really, nursing homes should be at the very end stage, at the very last stage and if you talk to any of the experts they will say people who have been in nursing homes and have gone home they often improve.”
Ms McEntee said because there is a focus on trolley counts this is the first place where additional funds are spent: “At the moment the funding is going to the hospitals, we need to change that and we need to move it away, but that all doesn’t happen in a year or two.”
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