Home help hours provision a ‘postcode lottery’, figures show

Galway has longest waiting list for home support services, with 674 people on list

Sinn Féin health spokeswoman Louise O’Reilly: “The lack of provision of resources and funding to deliver home support for those who need it is a serious cause for concern.” Photograph: Eric Luke

Sinn Féin health spokeswoman Louise O’Reilly: “The lack of provision of resources and funding to deliver home support for those who need it is a serious cause for concern.” Photograph: Eric Luke

 

More than 6,200 older people are waiting for urgently required home care supports as the population ages, new figures indicate.

The provision of home help hours and other care supports for older people has become a “postcode lottery”, the figures show, with huge variations in the size of the waiting list in different areas.

Galway has the longest waiting list for home support services, with 674 people on the list last August, according to the figures from the Health Service Executive. Dublin North recorded 623 people on the waiting list and Wexford and Laois/Offaly each had 578 on their lists.

In contrast, there were no people waiting for supports in Kerry, North Cork, North Lee in Cork city, Carlow/Kilkenny and South Tipperary.

Demand for home support continues to grow and waiting lists have become a feature of the system, the HSE admits.

Demographics

The main reason is “the increase in demographics of older people in the State,” it told Sinn Féin health spokeswoman Louise O’Reilly. The trend is set to continue each year and, as the number of over-65s increases, demand for new support services increases. Those already receiving help become more dependent, so additional supports are needed for existing clients, the HSE says.

‘What is most disheartening is that the obvious solution is off the table largely due to the effective freezing or severe rationing of homecare packages in some areas for those who require this service due to their disabilities.’
“The lack of provision of resources and funding to deliver home support for those who need it is a serious cause for concern." File photograph: iStockPhoto

Ms O’Reilly, who requested the information from the HSE, said home support was one of its most important services. “It keeps older people in their homes and provides care to those who have a disability or who are ill.”

“The lack of provision of resources and funding to deliver home support for those who need it is a serious cause for concern. The reality behind these waiting lists is that such waits for care can contribute to the escalation of illnesses, older people can have accidents, and it also causes delayed discharges from hospitals.”

Waiting lists are growing even though more people are being accommodated on the scheme: as of last July, 52,624 people were receiving home support, up from 50,359 in July 2017.

In relation to the regional variations in waiting lists, the HSE says it is implementing a standard national approach to assessing the care needs of older people. This will help ensure a more consistent approach and ensure waiting list data is “aligned” across the country.

“Getting older or having a disability should not leave you invisible to the State. The State must ensure that older people and those who have a disability can live at home with respect, with dignity and as comfortably as possible,” Ms O’Reilly said.

The average waiting time for home care services is 3½ months, but some older people are waiting up to two years, a report published last month indicated.