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Dublin: 7 °C Tuesday 18 February, 2020

Social workers 'waiting for people to die' to get elderly clients the care they need

Social workers say as many of half of their clients who have gone into nursing homes could have stayed in their own homes with proper supports.

Often the situation is that you are waiting for someone to die to access hours.

SOCIAL WORKERS HAVE revealed the difficulties of securing the care and home help hours their elderly patients need.

In a new report, social workers who were interviewed said they believe as many as half of their clients who have gone into nursing homes or are waiting on places could actually stay at home if the appropriate supports were there.

One social worker explained his frustration when it comes to applying for home help hours:

I dread making home help applications…takes a huge effort…like begging. For example, a person fell out of bed broke ribs, couldn’t dress…I asked for one hour per week…process took three phone calls to the public health nurse…wrote a three-page report; included personal care for dressing and washing needed…. Home help co-ordinator allocated three quarter hours per week.

‘We can’t feed them’

Another said domestic tasks are often where the greatest needs lies for older people they come into contact with.

“It’s that big gap; we can wash them but we can’t feed them.”

And one said there is often no one to replace a social worker when they go on holidays or are sick. This means a person may not get a bath or shower that week.

Many of the social workers quoted in the report said the majority of older people want to be cared for in their own homes.

I have never met anyone who was happy to go to long term care; there’s a lot of grief and loss.

‘Grossly underfunded’

The full report will be launched by Age Action, the Alzheimer Society, the Irish Association of Social Workers and researchers at UCD at noon today.

Dr Sarah Donnelly, of the School of Social Policy in UCD, said acute hospitals and nursing homes are being prioritised over the kinds of community services that allow older people to stay at home.

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“Waiting lists for home helps and home care packages are growing. Community care is grossly underfunded and people are simply not getting the care they need,” she commented.

The report highlights a number key problems with the system, which it says often bases decisions on geography rather than need.  The authors are calling for investment and reform in community care services and for the government to make the allocation of care fair and equitable.

Read: Irish scientist gets €2m grant to develop new treatment for arthritis, MS and Alzheimer’s disease>

Read: “Before this I was a young 69, I was full of life. I’m a world away from that person now”>

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