The number of younger people being cared for in Ireland’s nursing homes is “very concerning,” according to a support service for vulnerable adults.
There are currently nearly 1,350 people under the age of 65 being cared for in Ireland’s nursing homes, according to Freedom of Information figures released to Newstalk.
The HSE said nursing homes are only used for younger people where no other alternatives are available.
It noted that, while some younger residents in nursing homes have a disability, others have conditions that affect their ability to live independently – such as MS, motor neurone disease and early onset dementia.
On Breakfast Briefing this morning, Sarah Lennon, Executive Director of SAGE Advocacy, said it is “really concerning” that nearly 5% of Ireland’s nursing home residents are under the age of 65.
“I think we are talking about people, in the main, who have quite complex medical needs,” she said.
“Often there is not an alternative available but what it does ignore is that, while we may be meeting their medical needs by using nursing homes, we tend to ignore maybe their other needs – which are their psycho social needs which are not always best met by nursing home care.”
She said the nursing home environment is geared towards older people and often does not suit the needs of younger people.
“While a nursing home is not an older person’s home, the nursing homes do work very hard to make them homely and to make the environment suitable to them,” she said.
“That includes the environment itself, the fixtures, the fittings and, indeed, the entertainment that takes place.
“While that may very well meet the needs of the people who live there, often for a young person that is going to be a mismatch – particularly where that person maybe has not had the access to family support they might have had over the 12 months we have spent now in various stages of lockdown.”
According to the figures, it costs the State more that €1.1m a week to care for under-65s in nursing homes – and average of 900€ a week for each resident.
The HSE has committed to moving 18 younger people from the nursing home environment and back into their own homes this year.
Ms Lennon said the target is “very low.”
“Eighteen is a low number considering there are more than 1,300 already in the system,” she said.
“Some of the measures that are already in the support plan may actually prevent more people from having to go into nursing homes and that will be a positive – but I think we need to be a bit more ambitious than the 18 that are in place.”
The Minister of State for Disabilities, Anne Rabbitte, said the new figures are very worrying.
“We have to ask the question, ‘how come we can’t support the person themselves in their own independent living space?’” she said.
“How come we can’t support them in the community?
"Also, the will and preference of that person who has the disability. Is that being addressed? Is it being listened to? is it being actioned?”
She said she wants to ensure no new young people are taken into nursing homes, “unless it is the best identified to meet their medical needs.”
You can listen back to Ms Lennon here:
Additional reporting from Michael Staines