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Elderly couple married for 63 years separated as one is rejected for nursing home care

Michael Devereaux (90) broke down in tears as he explained the ‘nightmare’ situation.

Michael and Kathleen Devereaux
Michael and Kathleen Devereaux
Image: RTÉ Liveline

Updated at 5.50pm

AN ELDERLY HUSBAND and wife who have been married for 63 years were separated when only one of them was granted a place in a nursing home after they both applied.

Michael (90) and his wife Kathleen (85) Devereaux - who have been married for 63 years – both applied under the Fair Deal scheme for a place in a nursing home in March.

The couple, along with their son Tom, spoke to RTÉ’s Liveline this afternoon about the struggles they have been having.

While Michael was accepted and given a place in a nursing home, Kathleen’s application was not accepted, on grounds that she was independent enough to live outside of a nursing home.

Fair Deal –  also known as the Nursing Homes Support Scheme – gives financial support to people who need long-term nursing home care. Under the scheme, a person applies for support and has their medical and financial needs assessed.

Speaking today on Liveline from the nursing home, Michael Devereaux said he was devastated to be separated from his wife of 63 years.

“We’ve been separated for the first time in our lives after 63 long years of marriage,” said Michael, who was audibly upset on the line.

I can’t sleep at night even. I’m waking at three o’clock, maybe at four o’clock every morning, and what do I do? I pray first of all and then I cry. It’s terrible.

Michael said it was a “nightmare” being separated from Kathleen.

“There’s times in the daytime I feel as if my head is going to burst. I get that feeling and then I try to switch off,” he said.

“The fact is we just love each other and… it’s a nightmare for me. And it’s a nightmare, I’m sure, for my lovely wife.

We were loyal citizens both of us all our lives and it’s terrible to think that the same country has let us into this situation. I’m devastated.

Kathleen also spoke on the show, saying she found it difficult not to be with her husband.

She has been in Wexford General Hospital since April, where she was being treated for a bacterial infection, but she is not currently being treated for anything.

Appeal

The couple’s son Tom said that he had assisted his parents when they applied for the Fair Deal scheme in March.

He said that after his mother was rejected he had put in an appeal, but the review panel had determined she was capable of living independently.

“My father was accepted and he went into a nursing home at the start of April,” said Tom.

“But my mother she wasn’t consented for the scheme as a result of that I had to put in a review for them and the panel that did it turned it down,” he said.

And this was despite a letter from her GP saying that she needed long-term care.

He said that the HSE is maintaining that Kathleen does not need long-term residential care, but that he and his family felt that she did.

“She’s wracked with arthritis, in pain all the time, yet they expect her to live at home on her own with a few hours [care] a week,” he said.

Statement

In a statement, a spokesperson for the HSE said it was “very conscious of the circumstances raised in media this afternoon”.

“The HSE can also assure the public that its Community Healthcare Organisation in the Wexford area will be liaising with the family concerned and will arrange to meet with them in an attempt at reaching a resolution as soon as possible,” a spokesperson said.

They said that the health service attempted to work to support people in their own homes for as long as possible. The spokesperson laid out the assessment process for determining if a person needed long-term residential care.

“A person’s care needs may change during this process e.g. following admission to hospital, and any change in circumstances will be taken account of to ensure the person receives the appropriate support,” the spokesperson said.

Have you had any dealings with the Fair Deal scheme? You can email me cormac@thejournal.ie and let me know about your experience

Read: Brendan Courtney’s dad passes away months after documentary on care for the elderly

Read: ‘A Fair Deal it may be, a cheap deal it sure isn’t’ – the trauma of putting a relative into care

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About the author:

Cormac Fitzgerald

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