Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Getting Old in Ireland

It really is no fun getting old in the Ireland of today.  I am sure this is the case in many other countries too, but I am not able to speak for other places.

As an older mother, and, as of last week, someone who is nearer to fifty than forty, I now also have an older mother and I feel compelled to comment on this.

Let me tell you why.This week, my elderly mother, without any warning, received a letter from the HSE (Health Service Executive) stating that her home help/domestic care service is being cut. Not reduced, not suspended, but totally cut. There is no more government funding for it, apparently.

Before she was hospitalised for the first time, she had home help for only one hour a week. This was eventually increased to two, on doctor's recommendation.  Now, when she needs it most,  when she is sick and living alone, it has been taken away altogether.

Some would say, well why should she have 'free' domestic help anyway?  I say, it is not 'free'. Donations are given voluntarily on a yearly basis from the person receiving the help or from their families.  She, my father, and many others who face this situation now, worked all their lives for everything they ever got.  I say, it is not free, because she created five children who have also worked all their lives, contributed to society and done their best not to cause trouble for anyone else. I say she deserves it, because she deserves to be respected and cared for in her twilight years.  When  her sons and daughter and their families are facing cutbacks, job losses, negative equity, higher taxes, extra charges, extortionate childcare costs, she should feel secure about whatever years that she has left.

She has been hospitalised on many occasions with her conditions, COPD and chronic asthma. She acquired these conditions through no fault of her own. She is on a nebuliser 8 times a day and requires regular antibiotics and steroids. Her conditions are a hereditary, genetic thing, mostly connected with age. She also has osteo-arthritis, a knee replacement and 50% blockage in her heart.  She receives B12 injections each month for the rest of her life. For these reasons she has been in receipt of this home care package, provided by the HSE (Health Service Executive) for the past few years.  She is unable to do housework as even such small things as dusting could set an attack off.  Having a home carer, even for a few hours was a great help to her and to us, her family. My mother is lucky to have five children, all still living in this country who can help her when she really needs it. It is not always possible, as they all have young families and do not live in the immediate vicinity.  The ridiculous rise in property prices, especially in Dublin, during The so called Celtic Tiger pushed them all out of their home county.

It's not just herself that my mother is worried about.  She was a Home Carer herself in her younger days before she had to leave to look after my sick father. She relied on the money that it brought into our household, paltry as the sum was at the time.  She is upset that some of the home carers may lose their livelihoods or have even more pay cuts.  She remembers how it was for her in those very comparable times.

Think also of all the people who are older and sicker than my mother who have no-one to turn to for comfort.  Can you imagine their confusion and anxiety when they received this letter in the post without any inkling beforehand? Some of these people don't have family near to hand or any family at all.  They rely on their home carer to do housework, buy in groceries and they could be one of the few people they see all week.

I understand that there is an economic crisis.  I understand that the country is in financial trouble.  I understand that we have to face up to certain austerity measures but I wish the government would LEAVE OLD PEOPLE alone!  Many of the wrong people have been getting many of the benefits in this country for many, many years. While I know that much of this is being dealt with now,  I feel that it's not fair to now clamp down on the most vulnerable in our society. Old and sick people DO NOT deserve this worry after years of working and caring for the younger generation.

I am a person who usually doesn't get riled up about trivial things.  Even the austerity measures and cutbacks that we are all facing I meet with a certain amount of acceptance.  However, I am incensed about this because OLD PEOPLE have done their work and in some cases still are. They act as grandparents, advice givers and sometimes as guarantors. I was relieved that old peoples pensions were not cut but then found that  they are taking the money from old people in many other ways.  There are now household charges, prescription charges (even with long term illness and medical cards) and I have heard a rumour they now want to meddle with the free travel!

Only old people who need to be washed, helped in and out of bed and have their personal care/needs attended to will receive home help now. It seems that families, neighbours and friends are expected to do their housework, shopping etc. That is fine and people do what they can, but what about those who don't have families that care about them? What about those whose children live abroad? What about old people who don't have good neighbours and friends?

I saw recently, in the news that an elderly man was dead in his home for three months before anyone noticed.  For old and sick people who are alone in this world, the home carer maybe all that stands between them being found like this some day.

I hope to see something in the media about it soon. It hasn't been mentioned so far and has happened without warning.  I hope to hear people questioning the move as they did with the medical card issue for the elderly in the past.  I know I have a personal interest in that it affects my mother.  But surely it will affect the parents, relatives and friends of many others out there too.

Again, I say, LEAVE OLD PEOPLE ALONE.  Let them have peace. They deserve to be cared for and respected in their twilight years.

How do YOU feel about this?



21 comments:

  1. You've touched a nerve as (although in England, not Ireland) we are going through a similar thing with regard to care for my Gran at the moment. Seems we spend our lives working hard and paying taxes only to have retirement ages increased and assistance inour old age almost non-existent. I know people are living longer, so more people are requiring such care in the current day, but seems to me that personalisation and choice are buzz words that the Governments are happy to talk about, but not happy to put into practice.
    Rant over, sorry Claire. And best of luck with your Mum. x

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    1. I hear ya! We spend our lives working and paying taxes, thinking if we do things right, we will be treated right in our later years. Obviously not the case. Luckily my Mum has us, though we are unable to be around all the time with family and work commitments. With the rise in property prices during celtic tiger, my siblings had to buy homes farther away. She has a stairlift and invalid facilities so can manage pretty well in those respects. However, her home help was fantastic at keeping her house in order and dust free. This is very important because of her asthma and COPD condition. She cannot do any housework at all. I am able to take her to doctors and hospital appointments and do her shopping when I can but I just don't have time to do other jobs for her. I have enough trouble trying to get my own housework done! It was also good to know that if I didn't get to her, at least she had had someone in the house that day. Thank God for friends and family. If you have them and if they care...........

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  2. I think our communities are getting so disconnnected now...I really don't mix with anyone over 70 at all. And this was not the case when I grew up in a smaller town. Now I just turned 50 I think that's just 20 years away....who knows who will care if we don't start?

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  3. We moved in to this neighbourhood four years ago and one of the reasons we picked it, apart from being close to city and sea, was that it had all age groups living in it. The houses are eighty years old, so some of the neighbours are the same age as that. In fact, my next door neighbour was in her seventies and used to come in everyday for a cuppa. Sadly, she died just before my son's second birthday and a young family have moved in there now. We have a good mix of old and new. It's good for the old people to have younger people and children around, and it's good for us to benefit from their wisdom and experience etc. As I am on a career break, I love to stop and chat to the older people during the day. It's great to be able to help out with shopping, errands or just giving of our company. My little fella loves the older neighbours as they spoil him a lot!

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  4. Wow, this is so sad. I do hope that someway your mother can get the help she needs. Here in the US we are heading for the same cut backs. The world economy is so bad; but they should care for their elderly; who had contributed to the governments all of their life. My husband and I are also senior citizen's and my husband still works. I am afraid of what the next few years are going to bring to our age groups.
    I pray that things will change. Our old world is getting scary. Thanks for visiting my blog.

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    1. Hi LeAnn. I agree that our world is getting scary, especially for the vulnerable and the older aged people. All we can do is take action for what we think isn't right, and try to focus on the positive things.

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  5. I'll be honest and say that I tend to lack in knowledge about the ins and outs of government spending. Here in the states, a constant debate goes on about how our tax dollars should be spent.

    However, I agree with you; that preparation for elderly people is a must. My grandmother was given a helper 5 days a week when she lived with my parents. It was very helpful to them, for they too, were older. And now, they are still healthy enough to care for themselves, but I hope benefits will be in place should they need them.

    Well wishes for you mom and for you in making decisions to help her.

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    1. Government spending! It seems that we are paying more and more taxes and charges for less and less services. I am incensed at the moment Anita!

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  6. Thanks for joining my blog. I am now following your blog too! So sorry to read about your Mom's caregiver. I hope they are reinstated! Keep your chin up - she is so lucky to have you!

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    1. Definitely won't be reinstated so we are having to put our money together to get someone in to help her. Ah well, at least we can do that at the moment. It's just so sad that she and my father worked and paid their taxes for umpteen years, produced five productive kids and now she cannot get what she is entitled to in her old age. It seems we pay more and more for less and less these days.

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  7. Sadly,we live in a society where the vulnerable are the ones most likely to be hit..I view our current government like the school yard bully,picking on the weakest,quietest child,they know their victim.
    As the daughter of an elderly mother and mother of a son with special needs,I see this constantly.

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    1. The sad thing is, we seem to be resigned to it. The silence is deafening!

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    2. Yes,I agree with you there Claire,as a nation we are extremely apathetic,we should use France & Greece as an example and take to the streets,let our pathetic excuse of a government know that we won't take this anymore!!

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    3. But we will, won't we? :(

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  8. I love your blog. It's neat and very interesting. By the way, I appreciate your comment on my blog here: http://www.teacherspen.com/2013/01/8-beautiful-habits-to-do-in-morning.html
    By the way, you look younger than your age. Smile! ;-)

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