A report published today found that community supports are disorganised, fragmented and underfunded.
Social workers estimate that half of the older people they work with in long-term residential care could live at home.
The report was launched jointly by the Irish Association of Social Workers, Age Action, the Alzheimer Society of Ireland and the School of Social Policy, Social Work and Social Justice in University College Dublin.
It includes a national survey of social workers working with older people, including people living with dementia. There are also in-depth interviews with social workers, employed in a variety of settings across the country.
One of the report’s authors, Dr Sarah Donnelly from the School of Social Policy in UCD, said home care in Ireland was in crisis.
“Acute hospitals and nursing homes are being prioritised over the kinds of community services that enable older people to stay home,” said Dr Donnelly.
Policy officer with Age Action, Dr Marita O’Brien, said: “It has been government policy since the 1960s to support older people to stay at home as long as possible, but this simply isn’t happening.”
Dr O’Brien said people had a right to a nursing home bed, and it was time they had a right to stay at home.
Advocacy officer with the Alzheimer Society of Ireland, Dr Emer Begley, said geography, not need was deciding who got home help.
Community care services should be reformed and resourced, the report urges.
It also calls on the Government to establish a fair and equitable system of allocating care and support services that is underpinned by legislation.