‘How can we do this to our parents?’ A daughter’s plea for home care

Teena Gates has been unable to secure HSE supports for her father, Terry Martin (93)

Teena Gates and her father Terry Martin, who turns 94 next week.

Teena Gates and her father Terry Martin, who turns 94 next week.

 

The daughter of a 93-year-old man who wrote an open letter to Minister for Health Simon Harris seeking a homecare package for her father says she has been inundated with responses from people in similar situations.

Journalist and author Teena Gates said hundreds of people had been in touch since posting her open letter on social media in which she described how she was unable to secure supports from the HSE for her father, Terry Martin, who turns 94 next week.

“I’m watching, on my Facebook page, hundreds of people telling me that mine isn’t an isolated incident, that this is a common occurrence,” she told The Irish Times.

“I’ve had so many heartbroken people writing to me and posting me messages on Facebook and Twitter saying their loved ones have died while they waited for packages to get them home... How can we do this?”

Ms Gates’ father suffered a broken eye socket, an acquired brain injury and vascular dementia following a fall on April 16th. He had being experiencing the early signs of dementia since last August.

Mr Martin was transferred to Woodlands Medical Unit in Connolly Hospital on April 19th and has remained there since. Ms Gates, from Clonsilla in Dublin, said her father is doing “great” but suffers from confusion.

She said she was willing to help care for her father and pay for extra private care but had been advised that this might not be enough to ensure her father’s safety.

Ms Gates’ family applied for a homecare package after Mr Martin was admitted to Woodlands Medical Unit but have been told “funding isn’t available” and that if he leaves the hospital “he drops to the bottom of the waiting list”.

Terry Martin (93), who was transferred to Woodlands Medical Unit in Connolly Hospital following a fall on April 19th and has remained there since.
Terry Martin (93), who was transferred to Woodlands Medical Unit in Connolly Hospital following a fall on April 19th and has remained there since.

“People automatically assume that this is a doddery old man. Up until the fall, he was mowing the lawn and climbing ladders. He is such a wonderful bright, able man who has now gone from slight, early dementia to being very confused. But that’s something that I’m happy to deal with it and I want to deal with it at home,” Ms Gates told The Irish Times.

Mr Martin had been living with his daughter for the last number of years until his fall.

“We have had frank and open discussions about how he wants to spend the rest of his time and that has always included his total dread of being anywhere near a nursing home,” Ms Gates said.

“We’ve had that conversation. If he can’t recognise his home, or can’t recognise me and needs to be on intravenous drugs then that’s a sign to start considering nursing homes but he has a dread of nursing homes. I have promised him that he won’t end his days in a nursing home unless it is rational to do so.”

Ms Gates said she wanted her father to have a “happy, uneventful end of life”.

“It’s deeply frustrating... I love my dad and my dad loves me and we want to spend time together.

“Every one of these minutes that I spend with him is precious and perhaps limited. Time is totally of the essence. I don’t want to be waging wars or running campaigns.

“I want to him safe and happy in a comfortable environment at home, we just need a bit of support for that to happen.”

She said staff at Connolly Hospital and social workers dealing with father have been “amazing”.

In a statement, the HSE said its Dublin North City and County office was required to work within available resources in the provision of home supports and arising from demands for services, operates a waiting list when clients were not provided with a new or additional service immediately.

“All those waiting are assessed and provided with a service, if appropriate as soon as possible having regard to their assessed needs. In addition, people being discharged from acute hospitals, who are in a position to return home with supports, are prioritised.”

Last year, the HSE delivered 2.75 million home Support hours to 6,675 older people in the north city and county area.