We want a place for our son before we die. That is the plea of Cork couple, Ger and Linda Riordan, whose 25-year-old son, Ian, has Down Syndrome.
The couple, from Palmbury, Togher, were recently devastated to discover that there is no residential facility available, if they were no longer able to care for him.
Ian’s dad, Ger, explained that Ian has profound disabilities: “He is still in nappies and he weighs 17 stone. He needs to be bathed by us. He is too big to lift on your own.”
Ian regularly got respite care up until he was 18 years old, but the family had to seek new respite for him in the adult system.
After a long wait, he now receives two nights of respite care every six weeks, but the family are seeking more hours.
However, Ger said the big concern is what care will be available for Ian when they are no longer able to look after him. Ger collapsed in March and had to be taken to hospital. His first concern, when he awoke in the hospital, was about Ian, and about his future.
When he asked what care would be available to Ian, he was told he would have to be cared for in a hospital until a place became available for him. Ger and Linda want a residential placement secured for Ian before they die, to ensure he feels at home there.
Sinn Féin’s Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire recently highlighted the family’s case at a hearing of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Defence, and Equality. He said: “They recently asked a health service provider where their son would go, if anything happened to them in the morning. They were shocked to discover there was no place in particular.”
He continued: “The family were quite shocked, upset, and worried, as a consequence. They are right, because it indicates the lack of a long-term plan to offer support to individuals. There might be a bit of a plan up to the age of 18, but, beyond that, there is not.”
Junior Minister Finian McGrath, who has responsibility for disability issues, is seeking the provision of 400 emergency residential places across the country.
He said that he had managed to secure funding last year for 135 places.
He added: “I have a long-term objective for services for people with physical or intellectual disabilities. Every state and every society should have a plan for children and adults with disabilities, from the cradle to the grave.”