Sean Moynihan, ALONE CEO
The report published recently by the Nursing Homes Expert Panel has highlighted many of the deficiencies within the nursing home sector and in the wider health and social care infrastructure in Ireland. However, much of the recommendations within the report have long been advocated for by ALONE and by many who are caring, supporting and working with and for older people.
ALONE has welcomed the recommendations outlined in the report, we need immediate action to ensure that the thousands of vulnerable older people currently living in nursing homes across the country are protected and safe.
The question we should be asking is why so many of the measures in the report have not already been introduced, long before Covid-19. Single rooms, proper infection controls, better staff terms, professionalisation and training should have been longstanding measures within the nursing home sector. With the arrival and continued presence of Covid-19 in Ireland, the urgent reassessment of the nursing home sector to safeguard our older people has been brought to the fore. Nursing homes need to be brought into line with wider health and social care infrastructure in Ireland.
We also need to will give our older people the choice and opportunity to age at home, which would ease pressure on acute medical services. This is done by providing a statutory right to home care and is also significantly cheaper compared to nursing home care; under this scheme everyone that needs home care is entitled to receive it. Home care is a fraction of the cost for example €160 per week compared to over €1,500 for nursing home care. However, the waiting list for home care continues to grow, with around 8,000 people in need of home care.
Make no mistake, nursing homes provide a valuable support to older people with complex needs. However, older people have been prematurely moved to nursing homes and stuck in hospitals because they could not avail of the necessary supports to live in their own home. We need urgent investment, we have been waiting years for the investment in community, home care and housing services for an aging population. Every year we seem to lose out in the budget process.
This is an uncertain time for all of us, yet older people have been one of the hardest hit groups by COVID-19, and while certain measures were necessary to protect them from the virus. We have seen a massive spike in calls to the National Support Line from older people seeking advice on COVID-19 and the need or our support. We are doing everything possible to keep morale high amongst the older people we work with, promoting mental and physical wellbeing, helping older people to stay engaged and reminding them to reach out for anything they may need.
We watch the countries that are not unified in this battle and we see they are the ones where the virus is out of control. We need to be clear the battle is with the virus not between the health services and the economy nor is it between young and old
We must remain unified in following public health guidelines in the interest of keeping or communities, our loved one and our economy healthy.
ALONE is encouraging older people who need advice to call ALONE on 0818 222 024 from 8am-8pm, seven days a week. Contact ALONE if you have concerns about your own wellbeing, or the wellbeing of an older person you know. Further information can be found on www.alone.ie.