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LET’S MAKE 2021 THE YEAR OF “CHOICE” FOR OLDER PEOPLE IN IRELAND January 1, 2021

Sage Advocacy wants 2021 to be the year when older people in Ireland are given the opportunity to choose where they want to live, be cared for and supported.

The national organisation, which is a support and advocacy service for vulnerable adults, older people and healthcare patients, is calling for a radical transformation of the current systems of health and social care for older people in Ireland and a shift away from the nursing home model in 2021.

Sage Advocacy believes Covid-19 has exposed the weaknesses of Ireland’s current health and social care systems.

Sarah Lennon, Executive Director of Sage Advocacy, said: “The system needs to radically change, we need a new vision and if we have learned anything from Covid-19 it is that Ireland’s long term health and social system is flawed – it does not allow for the right care, in the right place, at the right time.

“Our latest discussion document, Choice Matters, highlights that because our current system is biased towards congregated settings, primarily the nursing home model, it was not well equipped to deal with the Covid-19 crisis.”

Ms Lennon said 2021 should be the year that older people get the opportunity to choose where they want to be supported and cared for and she says for the majority of people, this will be in their homes.

“We know from our work that there are some people in nursing homes, not because they need to be there, but because the supports they need to live at home are not there. As well as the lack of choice for older people we also work with people who are under 65 years of age and are receiving care in a nursing home because of a lack of alternative options.

“We need strong political leadership to shift the balance of care away from the nursing home model and towards other alternative potentially cost-effective approaches – let’s help people live well and age well in their own homes,” Ms Lennon added.

Sage Advocacy said one of its key priorities for 2021 will be to support the new Commission on Care for older people, which was outlined in the Programme for Government.

Ms Lennon said: “We would hope to see this new Commission established as soon as possible. We need to start building a new long term and support and care system because the reality is that with our ageing society all of us need to act together in 2021 to make change happen. We also believe that in 2021 the commencement of the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015 and the Decision Support Service should be fast tracked.

“But for now, we welcome that nursing home residents have been given the opportunity to consent to receiving the Pfizer BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine and will be among the first people in the country to receive the vaccine. We know from our work with nursing home residents and their families how difficult and distressing the last year has been and that many people are still mourning the loss of loved ones. We are very aware that the move to Level 5 restrictions has caused further anxiety for residents and their families.

“Throughout 2021 Sage Advocacy will continue to support and advocate for people who are facing challenges in their lives, who may be vulnerable, who may have a disability and for whatever reason may have to depend on others at a particular time in their lives. We will continue to ensure that peoples’ voices are heard and that their rights, freedoms and dignity are protected.”

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