State could save €224m on elderly care with renovations

The Government could save €224m a year in the cost of caring for older people by improving home-based services and resourcing properly sheltered housing, a new study shows.

The housing agency Clúid yesterday launched a research report which highlights that the majority of elderly people want to stay in their own home and should be able to do so with appropriate supports.

Clúid’s spokesman Simon Brooke said: “It is widely agreed that the best outcomes for older people occur when they stay in their own homes. This is also the most cost-effective option in almost all cases.”

The research was commissioned by Clúid and carried out by the Centre for Gerontology and Rehabilitation at University College Cork. It found that 83% of older tenants in mainstream housing said the design of their home met most of their needs. This increased to 95% for those in sheltered housing.

Most tenants in mainstream housing believed that their home could easily be adapted to meet their needs. The features most needed by older tenants are bathroom aids, an intercom, a front door spyhole, and a facility to call someone in an emergency.

“This demonstrates that relatively inexpensive adaptations can meet the needs of the great majority of older tenants,” said Mr Brooke.

“In relation to sheltered housing, we believe that if it could be reconfigured to keep people out of nursing homes, people’s quality of life could be greatly improved and the State could save a large sum of money. It is estimated that the average total cost of sheltered housing run by a housing association is approximately €22,000 per annum.

“The total cost of nursing home care may be between €44,000 and €78,000 per annum. So, if sheltered housing can be reconfigured to cater for some residents with higher needs, it will still be far less expensive than nursing home accommodation.

“For example if the additional support costs to enable a sheltered housing tenant to remain in sheltered housing rather than move to a nursing home cost €7,000 per year, then the State would save between €15,000 and €49,000 per year for each tenant.

“So if 30% of nursing home residents (about 7,000) who don’t need to be there were living in sheltered housing, the State could save perhaps €224 million per year.”

Speaking ahead of the launch, junior minister for health Kathleen Lynch said it was her department’s priority to ensure older people could remain in their homes for as long as possible.

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