Up to 1000 people may be held against wishes in care settings, advocacy body

‘The issue here is that there are people wanting to stay at home’ Sage Advocacy says

Ten older women pack red suitcases for Halfpenny Bridge ‘Freedom March’. Photograph: Julian Behal

Ten older women pack red suitcases for Halfpenny Bridge ‘Freedom March’. Photograph: Julian Behal

 

Up to 1000 men and women may be held against their wishes in places of care in Ireland, according to Sage Advocacy.

The older and vulnerable adults advocacy group organised a walk of ten older women pulling red suitcases across Dublin’s Ha’penny bridge yesterday in an effort to raise awareness around the issue.

The figure is extrapolated from a number of UK and European studies and applied to Ireland in reference to its population and age demographic.

The red suitcases were a symbol of those who’ve been able to leave such situations, and found its origins in one of Sage’s own cases.

“Rosie”, an 85-year-old woman, had been in a nursing home for 9 months due to illness. Once recovered, she packed a red suitcase in anticipation of her departure.

Some staff members thought she required family permission to leave, and threatened to call the gardaí. Her suitcase remained untouched for six weeks while she awaited an outcome. She reached out to Sage for help, and is currently back in her own home.

“The issue here is that there are people wanting to stay at home,” Sage Advocacy chief executive Mervyn Taylor said at the event, “there’s a nursing home down the road who - with a bit of support - could turn around and actually support those who wished to do so.”

“We’re in a cusp of a period of change,” Mr Taylor later added,. “There’s a start of a cultural change between those that believe in best interests, in other words, as determined by them, and those who believe in respecting the will and preference of the person who has a need for support and who may have a loss of capacity to make decisions.”

While those intending to walk readied themselves for the rain with matching red umbrellas to cross the bridge, Mr Taylor called on those who had the capacity to change the current situation to act, “this is a challenge to the Government to stop sloganising about community care and protecting the vulnerable, and actually get people who make the decisions together to solve real people’s problems.”