HSE homecare urged for elderly as alternative to residential care

Sage ‘disappointed’ with judge’s decision to make man ward of court against will

The HSE said the ward of court process “offers significant additional protections to vulnerable people”.  Photograph: Jonathan Brady/PA

The HSE said the ward of court process “offers significant additional protections to vulnerable people”. Photograph: Jonathan Brady/PA

 

An advocacy group for older people says it knows of “several cases” of elderly people who are being placed in residential care when they could stay at home under a modest Health Service Executive homecare package.

The campaign group Sage was commenting after a man in his mid-60s lost his High Court bid to be discharged from a nursing home.

The man, who suffers with severe lifelong epilepsy and organic brain disease, last week pleaded with the court to be allowed return to his home. President of the High Court Mr Justice Peter Kelly, who visited the nursing home outside Dublin last week to hear the man’s evidence first-hand, said he would make him a ward of court on Tuesday.

Mary Condell, legal adviser with Sage, said at no stage was a “safe discharge plan” drawn up for their client.

She said the advocacy group had several cases of elderly people needing moderate homecare packages such as an hour or two of services per day but instead “are being put into congregated settings”.

Ms Condell said a difficulty the organisation had come across was those who are assessing the ability of elderly people to function at home “are part of the HSE system” and that there is an “enormous discrepancy” between various community healthcare organisations across the country regarding homecare packages.

HSE assessments

“Very often, because the assessments are also done by HSE people, they will assess the person on the basis that they need long-term care rather than homecare packages because they say there are no homecare packages in this area or there are none left in this area,” she said.

“We even have cases where there’s a member of the family living in the person’s house and they actually don’t want the older person back. So they’ll say ‘yes, put them in’ and collude with the HSE in not providing homecare packages.”

Ms Condell added Sage was “disappointed” with Mr Justice Kelly’s decision. “He [the man] does not want to be where he is. He wishes to be at home.”

The HSE said the ward of court process “offers significant additional protections to vulnerable people”.

However, it acknowledged the preferred option for most people was to stay at home if possible. The HSE said this year it was supporting over 52,000 people to stay at home through its home support service – this is against a national service plan target of 50,500.

“Our budget for home support is fully committed and as a result there are waiting times in some areas.”