Unwell woman detained after wandering on busy road in dishevelled state

Situation ‘sad and poignant’ as woman suffering with dementia held in hospital

A retired healthcare worker who was found wandering in a dishevelled state on a busy road is to remain detained in a hospital on foot of High Court orders.

The situation of the woman, aged in her 60s, is “sad and poignant”, Áine Hynes SC, for the HSE, told the court.

The woman, who is single with no children, was diagnosed with a form of dementia some years ago and her condition declined sharply in the last six months.

The HSE was contacted by a worried relative some weeks ago after the woman was found in a dishevelled state wandering on a busy road near a roundabout.

The HSE secured an order, on foot of an ex parte application (one side only represented) in intended wardship proceedings, for her to be treated in hospital.

Three medical reports concerning her capacity, all to the effect she lacked the capacity to make decisions about her personal welfare or finances, were before the court.

President of the High Court Ms Justice Mary Irvine had last month granted the order for the woman to be treated in hospital and also made an order appointing a guardian ad litem to represent the woman’s interests in the wardship proceedings. The judge directed that an independent medical visitor carry out a further capacity assessment.

When the matter returned to court on Friday, Ms Hynes said the HSE was not, for now, seeking any transfer of the woman from the hospital.

Shift is over

Ms Hynes said a hospital medical report indicated the woman is fairly settled there until it comes to evening and she gets distressed because she thinks her shift is over and she should be going home.

“It’s a very poignant and sad situation, she just can’t manage at home,” Ms Hynes said.

The HSE wanted an order for the woman’s detention in the hospital while it seeks to identify an appropriate nursing home for her, counsel said.

The woman is happy with the food and staff but is convinced she continues to be in the position she had held when she was a healthcare worker, the judge was told.

Ms Hynes indicated the woman has substantial assets and said a Fair Deal application will be processed but noted a declaration of wardship is required before there could be a Fair Deal scheme for the woman. If an appropriate nursing home place becomes available, transitional funding will be made available for that, she added.

The judge said the woman appeared settled enough in the hospital but it was not appropriate for her to remain there and the sooner she could transition to a nursing home the better. The HSE, she accepted, is doing all it can in that regard.

The judge made the detention order and returned the matter for review in October.

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan is the Legal Affairs Correspondent of the Irish Times