Northern Ireland

Carer's plea to 'help the aged'

A Londonderry woman who looks after three elderly relatives has said she's struggling to cope.

Her pleas come a day after the number of new nursing home places within the Western Trust's area was cut to two a month.

Eileen Mallon cares for two elderly aunts, and a third is due home from hospital once a care package can be put in place.

She is determined to keep her aunts together, but said the family feel the existing provision - of four twenty-minute sessions a day with two carers - is not enough for all three, and they need more help.

The Western Trust said they did not comment on individual cases, but given the "extremely challenging financial climate" it had to prioritise placements and domiciliary care support for those in greatest need.

Eileen explained that two of her aunts were "totally incapacitated."

"They need hoisted and are in a wheelchair all the time.

"My Auntie Lily is in hospital at the moment and she's the priority for us.

"Before she went in her carers had been finding it difficult to manage her, and the social worker was doing his best to try and up her care to two people plus an extra visit a day but he was unsuccessful.

"In hospital she was treated for ten days and then they decided it was time to discharge her.

"We were called to a meeting and we highlighted our concern that she couldn't manage with one carer before she went into hospital, but the physiotherapist insisted she was capable of being handled by one carer.

"But she will have to be discharged with one carer.

Family strain

"We feel she's coming home to an unsafe environment.

"It will put a lot of strain on myself and my older sister who helps me.

"My sister has rheumatoid arthritis, so it's like the blind leading the blind at the moment.

"My Auntie May is constantly asking, 'What about Lily, when's Lily coming home?' and crying.

"So there's a strain with her being in hospital, but it's also going to be a strain if we have to bring her home with just one carer.

"We need to help the aged, and put care packages into a context where they really look after people.

"My aunts want to stay at home and they don't want to be separated, so no matter how difficult the struggle becomes, somehow or other we will keep my aunts together and at home for as long as it takes."

Sinn Fein councillor Gerry MacLochlainn, who attended a meeting between Western Trust and the family, said they were at their "wit's end".

"Of course the Trust is under severe financial stress and they have to be efficient in terms of resources, but it's a very clear waste of resources if three elderly ladies find themselves in full time institutional care costing thousands of pounds a week.

"That can be easily avoided if they are given the relatively modest amount of care they're looking for."

In a statement, the Western Trust said it had a process in place through which all requests for placement and domiciliary care are reviewed, prioritised and allocated on a weekly basis, within the resources available.

"Regrettably this means that some people will have to wait longer than they might have anticipated for such support.

"All cases are continually kept under review.

"The Western Trust will continue to work with families and carers in this very challenging financial environment and will continue to prioritise resources to those with the greatest need."

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