The Covid-19 public health emergency has exposed how Ireland’s current long-term support and care system, with its high reliance on residential nursing homes, was “totally inadequate” to safeguard vulnerable, older people, a new discussion document highlights today.
Choice Matters, published by Sage Advocacy, examines how the “dangerous architecture” on which the current system of care in congregated settings for older people is built, presented major difficulties in responding to the challenges of Covid-19.
Choice Matters also highlights key long term care issues in Ireland and provides a policy action framework for an alternative model of long-term support and care which could be progressed through the Government’s proposed Commission on Care.
Key issues highlighted in the discussion document include; inadequate clinical oversight in private nursing homes, a lack of any protocols between the HSE and the private nursing home sector and the continued use of multi-occupancy rooms and outmoded premises in some nursing homes.
The document is based primarily on analysis of feedback and reflections from Sage Advocacy’s frontline personnel who have continued to provide support and advocacy services throughout the pandemic.
Throughout the 62 page document Sage Advocacy’s frontline personnel provide insights on major issues that Covid-19 accentuated from the difficulties the nursing homes and residential care sector initially had in obtaining PPE to examples of a lack of communication and sharing of information by the sector, through to the failings in supporting people living at home who required home care support.
The document also identifies good and poor practice in nursing homes during the first wave of Covid-19 and draws attention to the impact of visitor restrictions from early March on nursing home residents, particularly those with reduced decision making capacity.
Sage Advocacy, which supports and advocates for vulnerable adults, older people and healthcare patients, believes the discussion document clearly shows that the current two-tiered, health and social care system, cannot meet the growing demands for long term care in an aging society.
The chair of Sage Advocacy, the Honourable Mary Laffoy said: “This is a discussion paper which is thought provoking, particularly in this difficult time. I hope its publication now will encourage both stakeholders and members of the public to engage in discussion with a view to moving forward in the interests of the best care and support of older people”.
Sage Advocacy believes it is time to enable older people to be cared for in a place of their choice - which for the great majority of people is home.
Sarah Lennon, Executive Director, Sage Advocacy, said: “We need to find a sustainable, creative and a more rights focussed approach to care for people with long term support and care needs. We need a new vision for long term health and social care.
“The Programme for Government 2020 has made a clear commitment to establish a Commission on Care for older people. This discussion document has been published to inform the work of the proposed Commission and to encourage a new partnership between older people and the State.
“One of the key questions that this discussion document raises is whether or not nursing homes have a future in our long term support and care infrastructure. We need to honestly acknowledge that there are some people today in nursing homes, not because they need to be there, but because the supports they need to live at home are not there.”