The Mulhall family in Cork said they decided to go public about their mother’s plight after listening to Government ministers defending changes to the scheme and insisting that more resources were being made available.
It has emerged that a lack of funding to Cork City Council has created a backlog of up to six years, even in emergency cases.
The Mulhalls are pleading with city officials to cut through the red tape and end their nightmare wait before it’s too late.
“The condition is advancing quickly,” said an emotional Jennifer Mulhall. “We have lost our mother already, and we’ll lose her again when she passes. The Government can spend €85m on consultants for Irish Water, but why can’t we get what my mam so badly needs.”
Jennifer's mother Marilyn, 62, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s five years ago.
The family applied to Cork City Council in 2011 for a grant to adapt their council home in Mahon by installing a downstairs bedroom and wash facilities to meet her changing needs.
However, said local Sinn Féin councillor Chris O’Leary, the application has been tied up in red tape since.
“It is a horrible situation. The merry go-round system that applicants face is unbelievable,” said Mr O’Leary. “The stress, the strain of managing the seriousness of the illness alone, and then faced with the degrading system which the State imposes on the person and families, makes it all the more traumatic for those involved.”
Jennifer, who cares for Marilyn, wept as she explained how her mother’s condition is worsening rapidly, and how her care is becoming more difficult.
Marilyn no longer answers to ‘mum’ and only recognises certain family members, said Jennifer.
“It’s a daily struggle getting her in and out of the bath,” she explained.
“If I had downstairs facilities like a washroom and toilet, it would be a great ease. It would also be less stressful on her without the hassle and fear of going up and down the stairs. It [the disease] is coming on her very fast and it’s getting a lot worse and most days can be very stressful.”
Jennifer said the family wants to keep Marilyn at home for as long as possible and maintain her dignity.
Mr O’Leary said families such as the Mulhalls are saving the State millions of euro by caring for their loved ones at home.
“All families like the Mulhalls want is what the State should be obliged to do — provide support for a seriously ill family member to live out their lives with dignity and humanity within the caring and loving environment of their home,” said Mr O’Leary.
Chairman of Cork City Council’s housing committee, former lord mayor Michael O’Connell, said each case is assessed on its own merits. “Going on previous similar cases, the cost of doing such projects could be up to €50,000,” he said.
However, he said, Housing Minister Jan O’Sullivan has increased the Housing Adaptation Grant fund for local authorities by €4.2m to €38.4m this year.
A council spokesman said they do not comment on individual cases, but insisted that there is generally no delay in processing such applications.
“Applications for extensions are processed, assessed, and approved relatively quickly, but due to a shortage of available funding, there is a backlog of five to six years before detailed design and construction proceeds, even for those applications that are categorised as high priority,” he said.