Woman with dementia made a ward of court despite her objection

High Court hears woman lacks capacity to make decisions about her welfare and finances

Ms Justice Niamh Hyland found the woman should be taken into wardship and continued orders permitting her continued placement in a nursing home.  File Photograph:  Collins Courts.

Ms Justice Niamh Hyland found the woman should be taken into wardship and continued orders permitting her continued placement in a nursing home. File Photograph: Collins Courts.

 

An elderly woman with vascular dementia who objected to being made a ward of court has been taken into wardship by a High Court judge following medical reports that her loss of capacity is likely to be permanent.

The woman’s court appointed guardian, who last May secured an independent medical report which agreed the woman lacks capacity to make decisions about her welfare and finances, told Ms Justice Niamh Hyland on Tuesday an updated report from that psychiatrist was unlikely to be any different.

In light of that evidence, and reports from two other consultant psychiatrists which also found the woman met the criteria for wardship, the judge said there was no procedural unfairness in proceeding with an inquiry concerning whether the woman, aged in her 80s, should be made a ward of court.

On foot of the evidence, the judge found the woman should be taken into wardship and continued orders permitting her continued placement in a nursing home.

Earlier, Paul Brady BL, for the HSE, said he was seeking wardship on foot of the unanimous medical evidence concerning the woman’s lack of capacity.

In evidence, the woman’s guardian said she was previously in a hospital psychiatric unit for several months having been admitted there late last year with a delusional disorder. She has since been moved to a nursing home.

The guardian visited the woman this week and said she looked well, was in good spirits and more relaxed in the nursing home than she had been in the psychiatric unit.

While the woman had made no attempt to leave the nursing home, she had consistently expressed a preference to be in her own home and her objection to wardship had been consistent from the beginning, the guardian added.

Cormac J Hynes BL, for the woman, agreed the medical evidence was all to the effect the woman lacks capacity but asked the court to consider whether the wardship application should be adjourned for an updated report to be obtained from the independent psychiatrist.

There may be some procedural unfairness arising from that psychiatrist’s report having been obtained last May prior to the objection to wardship being formally lodged in July, he said.

The guardian said she had sought the May report in light of the woman’s consistent opposition to wardship from the outset and did not believe the psychiatrist’s view had changed.

The woman had not instructed her to seek an adjournment of the wardship inquiry, she added.

Ms Justice Hyland said she would proceed with the wardship inquiry in light of the evidence and because the woman had not instructed the guardian to seek an adjournment.

Having considered the woman’s objection, that her family could not significantly assist her care in the community and the medical evidence, including reports the woman’s vascular dementia is likely to get worse and her loss of capacity is to be regarded as permanent, the judge directed the woman be taken into wardship.

She also directed that the woman’s son, in his capacity as the committee representing her interests in wardship, expedite an application under the Fair Deal scheme.