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'It's heartbreaking’ My husband is unable to return home to our family after stroke

Michelle Murray outlines how her husband Charles is living in a nursing home nearly two years after being discharged from hospital due to unsuitable housing.

MY HUSBAND AND I have been together for 23 years and never spent a day away from each other until 4 February 2020. Now, it’s been over two years that we are apart since Charles had a stroke that night. 

We were having our usual chat in the sitting room and everything was fine when I went to bed. Then around 2am, Charles started calling my name and I found him crawling on the sitting room floor. He couldn’t move one arm and the right side of his face had dropped.

I knew it was a stroke, got him into an ambulance and brought him to Mullingar hospital. The consultant said he didn’t know if Charles was going to survive and that broke my heart – being together for so long and then seeing him like that.

  • Read more here on how to support a major Noteworthy project to investigate how difficult it is for disabled people to secure a home in Ireland.

But after three long days in intensive care, followed by several long months recovering in hospital, his speech has returned but life is different now. He has a language disorder, aphasia; he’s not able to walk and his right hand and arm do not work. 

Unfortunately, our problems did not end there and my husband has not yet returned home – more than 15 months on from his discharge from hospital. Charles has been living in a nursing home as he wouldn’t be able to come to our house we rent as it’s completely unsuitable for him and his needs now.

We have sent letters to the local authority looking for a proper home that will accommodate my husband’s needs and give us as close to normal of a family life again.

Occupational therapists, physiotherapists and a medical social worker have also sent letters to the council on our behalf. The only response that they are getting is that the local authority doesn’t have suitable houses in stock. 

  • When asked about this case, Westmeath County Council told The Journal that it does not comment on individual housing cases.

It’s completely unacceptable that there are such gaps in the availability of housing for disabled people. Nobody knows when it’s going to happen. With the click of your fingers, you can be healthy one minute, and then the next minute you can have a stroke. 

The minute that happens, there should be accommodation available at all times or specially designed facilities for a period of time for rehabilitation. It’s important to make these changes so that if this happens to another family they don’t end up in this situation.

Michelle Murray hugging husband Charles who is sitting in a wheelchair. Michelle and her husband Charles together

It’s heartbreaking that he is not at home with myself and our four children. It’s a 90-minute round trip to the nursing home to see him. I don’t have a car so if no-one is available to give me a lift, a taxi could cost up to €75 each way.

We do a video call with him every night where the kids say goodnight to him but it is just not the same.  ur 17-year-old son always says “I wish that Dad was home”.

Our youngest just started secondary school and our eldest started college and Charles told me: “I should have been there for that. I should be there for all my kids”. He said he feels like he’s in prison and all he can do is look out the window all day. It’s not fair. Nobody should have to go through that.

Charles is also missing out on a proper recovery from his stroke. There are supports for him when he does come home like physiotherapy and occupational therapy but since he’s been in the nursing home, his recovery has completely stalled as they’re not equipped to deal with his condition.

Charles loved walking before his stroke and now he uses a wheelchair. He is dying to walk again and not rely on the wheelchair anymore. 

Luckily, over the last few weeks, the HSE have arranged for him to go to Mullingar and get physiotherapy. He’s happy in himself doing that because he just wants to get out and back to his family. But we don’t know when that is going to happen. 

All I want is for my husband to come home to start living a life again as normal as can be expected given his condition – to have a normal family life again. Their dad is a big part of our children’s life and it’s like a big piece of their jigsaw is missing right now.

Michelle Murray is a mother of four living in Athlone. Her husband Charles had a stroke in 2020 and has been living in a nursing home since discharge from hospital

Design for NO ROOM - Wheelchair user shaking hands with business person who is handing them keys to a house.

NO ROOM Investigation

Across Ireland, over 2,800 disabled people continue to live in congregated settings and more than 1,300 people under the age of 65 are living in nursing homes.

The Noteworthy investigative team want to conduct an in-depth investigation into the housing crisis facing disabled people and meet with disabled people living in inappropriate accommodation. 

Here’s how to help support this proposal>

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