Court orders home detention of man with dementia amid Covid-19 concerns

Elderly man does not understand importance of ‘cocooning’, hand-washing and social distancing

Man continues to go shopping and attempts to call to people’s homes, and is putting himself and others at risk as a result, the court was told. Photograph Nick Bradshaw

Man continues to go shopping and attempts to call to people’s homes, and is putting himself and others at risk as a result, the court was told. Photograph Nick Bradshaw

 

A High Court judge has ordered the effective detention in his own home of an elderly man with advancing dementia due to concerns he does not properly understand the risks to himself and others from Covid-19.

The man, aged in his 80s, does not understand the importance of “cocooning”, hand-washing and social distancing, is continuing to go shopping and attempting to call to people’s homes, and is putting himself and others at risk as a result, the court was told.

While his GP and other medical professionals are of the view he is of unsound mind and lacks capacity to make decisions about his person and finances as a result of advancing cognitive impairment, he is physically very mobile, David Leahy BL said.

The man lives alone and there is no need for him to leave home because he has carers calling three times daily and other supports, counsel said.

Mr Justice David Keane said on Friday he was satisfied, on the evidence and submissions, he should make the orders and returned the matter to next Tuesday.

Mr Leahy, on behalf of a solicitor previously appointed by the man with a view to registering an enduring power of attorney, sought the orders under the High Court’s wardship jurisdiction.

The application was supported by the man’s GP and a friend in daily contact with him who expressed serious concerns about his vulnerability to Covid-19 and that he may also be putting others at risk.

His doctor expressed the view the risk is such he should not leave home under any circumstances.

Mr Leahy said he wanted orders authorising the man’s detention at home pending further order unless a healthcare professional decides it is in his best interests to leave and provided he is accompanied by a nurse, doctor or paramedic.

He also sought orders appointing a medical visitor to carry out a further capacity assessment and to report on that and how he can be managed during the Covid-19 crisis.

The orders are in the best interests of the man and also in the interests of public health, counsel said. Attempts to persuade the man to stay at home by his doctors, friends and a community Garda had not worked to date, counsel outlined.

While there is an issue whether the man has capacity to understand the orders, it was hoped, when he was informed of the orders, he would comply with them.

The orders also provide, should he leave his home, gardaí have permission to search for and return him there.

Counsel noted the recently introduced emergency legislation – the Health (Preservation and Protection and other Emergency Measures in the Public Interest) Act 2020 – provides that medical officers can direct detention of people believed to be a potential Covid-19 risk.

Mr Leahy also said the man’s carers have reported he does not let them assist him with personal hygiene and they had concerns about his ability to maintain that to an appropriate level. The carers also expressed concerns about deteriorating cognitive ability and his ability to manage at home and appreciate the dangers of Covid-19.