Nursing homes and care of elderly people

 

Sir, – The nursing homes situation is revealing a crisis within a crisis. But a deeper and more long-term problem is being revealed through all of this.

The care of the elderly is something we expect the State to bear for those who cannot afford to pay for it themselves.

The cost of such care is prohibitive for most families in that the weekly cost is well over €1,000 and very few families can afford this.

So the next port of call for the funding is the assets of the old people themselves, if they have any. In an effort to preserve the inheritance they have built up over the years for their children and grandchildren, people devise ways to ensure that inheritance is protected.

The State has cooperated in this with the Fair Deal Scheme, allowing only 20 per cent of the main asset, the family home, to be used to pay for the care of parents in nursing homes.

The State is left with the biggest burden of keeping people well in nursing homes.

The business of running these has been largely handed over to private companies, which, while their work is much appreciated, exist mainly to produce a profit. To do this, they keep costs to a minimum.

In order to give the quality of care required of them by the Health Information and Quality Authority, a minimum staff to patient ratio must be maintained.

So low-paid workers are sourced from abroad and cheap labour delivers the required level of service. The loving care being given by most of these workers is regularly praised and much appreciated.

But the consequences of the low levels of pay and working conditions are being exposed now to the horror of everyone.

Should we continue to expect the State to take responsibility for the care of our parents with the taxation that goes with that? Our parents, after all, have contributed to the State coffers all their lives.

Should we be prepared to forfeit our inheritance to pay to keep our parents in a dignified state in their old age?

These are difficult and uncomfortable questions for most people. But it is now time to decide. Someone has to pay. – Yours, etc,

SHEILA DEEGAN,

Dublin 3.