Intellectual disability services

 

Sir, – As an outcome of the pandemic, the care of our most vulnerable people must be a benchmark of our success in managing Covid-19.

Since the outbreak of Covid-19, there has been no formal public reporting from Nphet on intellectual disability services. There has been little media concentration from newspapers or television on intellectual disability during the pandemic. Most often families, and in particular parents, feature on the Liveline RTÉ programme, baring their souls to the nation with distressing stories of their lives as carers with inadequate support services.

It’s ironic, but not surprising that other services, including schools, are fully operational; however, intellectual disability services have not been restored to pre-Covid levels.

The CSO (2016) reported that 66,611 persons suffered with an intellectual disability, representing 1.4 per cent of the population.

As well as intellectual disability, a majority of the people had other disabilities, including blindness, deafness, physical, pain, psychological and psychiatric challenges, and 55.6 per cent had difficulty going outside the home.

There are approximately 2,000 adults and children and an emerging elderly population with intellectual disability in Irish institutions, and the remainder are in community settings and the home.

Any comprehensive plan to prevent and manage Covid-19 should have taken an approach of integrating institutional and community care settings.

Many of the people who were attending day services and availing of respite services have had reduced services, and the total burden of care has fallen on a family member who may themselves be elderly or have commitments with younger children, and distress and exhaustion quickly set in.

What is not fully understood in society is the very close affinity between an intellectually disabled person and their family.

Such closeness and intimacy brings with it many emotions and anxieties about the future which have been heightened in families during this pandemic.

Families will struggle away with caring for their loved one until a crisis point is reached.

Intellectually disability services have always been a Cinderella area of health care in terms of budgeting, infrastructure, and staffing, and this malaise must not affect the provision of appropriate and equitable services for people and their families with intellectual disability during this pandemic. – Yours, etc,

SEAMUS COWMAN,

Professor Emeritus,

Royal College

of Surgeons

in Ireland,

Dublin 2.