Younger people with disabilities living 'wasted lives' in nursing homes

Ombudsman report finds some did not give informed consent to be placed in home long-term

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Some younger people with disabilities did not give informed consent about being placed in nursing homes long term, an investigation by the Ombudsman has found.

In a report published on Wednesday, the Ombudsman Peter Tyndall criticised the inappropriateness of nursing homes as accommodation for younger people with a disability.

Mr Tyndall investigated the placement of people under 65 in nursing homes and those he spoke to told him they had no option but to live in nursing homes due to a lack of support from the State.

The HSE has said there are more than 1,300 people under 65 in nursing homes.

The Ombudsman said in his report, Wasted Lives: Time for a Better Future for Younger People in Nursing Homes, that he carried out 28 visits with people directly affected, and found that most of them said that they wanted to live at home but that their wishes were not granted.

“One of the people we met during the investigation said that he wasted the best years of his life in an institution,” said Mr Tyndall.

“Another, who had suffered his injuries in an assault, said the person convicted would one day leave prison; he had no prospect of leaving the nursing home.”

He spoke to one man, a musician who had toured the world, who had spent nine years in a nursing home after suffering a stroke at the age of 48.

The Ombudsman found that most of the people he met were not offered the option of living independently in their own homes with support from the HSE. Photograph: Getty Images
The Ombudsman found that most of the people he met were not offered the option of living independently in their own homes with support from the HSE. Photograph: Getty Images

Another man had been in a nursing home for eight years after suffering a brain injury in a fall from a ladder despite his house being wheelchair-accessible.

Four people interviewed by Mr Tyndall died during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Admission

The Ombudsman found that there was no system to record the number of people affected, and how they are affected. Many residents told him that at the time of their admission they believed their stay in a nursing home was temporary.

He said the health system and the way care was funded was “biased in favour of institutional settings”, that the availability of primary care for younger people in nursing homes was “patchy or non-existent”, and that many nursing home activities were not suitable for younger people.

He found that most of the people he met were not offered the option of living independently in their own homes with support from the HSE.

In his report he recommends that a national survey be carried out to identify others in similar circumstances, with follow-up actions to be implemented “as a matter of urgency”.

He called for a dedicated budget in each HSE area to improve life for those affected, and urged the HSE and the Department of Health to draw up guidelines for staff involved in processing applications for the Nursing Home Support Scheme to ensure there was fully informed consent.