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Young People in Ireland placed in Nursing Homes

In Ireland, young people are being placed in nursing homes because no other appropriate services are available.


Almost 1,300 people aged between 20 and 65 are still being placed in nursing homes in Ireland because no other adequate services are available, two years after an independent State investigation called for immediate reform of the situation.


New figures, obtained by RTÉ News under the Freedom of Information Act, show that at the start of this year, 1,250 people under the age of 65 were in nursing homes in Ireland.


The figure - which includes people with acquired brain injuries, spinal injuries, multiple sclerosis, and other conditions - is down only slightly from May 2021, when an ombudsman investigation found just over 1,300 younger people were living in nursing homes.


Two years later, the ombudsman's office has said that while some progress has been made, reforms need to be speeded up to address the issue.


Inappropriate placements


The vast majority of people being inappropriately placed are aged between 40 and 65, but at least 50 people aged under 40 are also living in nursing homes.


The average stay is 4.5 years, with the longest stay standing at 19.5 years.


According to the data, the youngest person in a nursing home is aged in their 20s.

The figures also show the issue is affecting all parts of the country, within all nine of the HSE's Community Healthcare Organisation areas.


In a statement accompanying the figures, the HSE said it accepted that placing younger people in "nursing home settings" is often "inappropriate", adding that it has set up an Integrated Steering Committee to implement the recommendations of the ombudsman's 2021 'Wasted Lives' report.


The HSE said it has made €5.5m available to help move people out of nursing homes this year.


People who are affected by the situation


Speaking to RTÉ News, a number of people affected by the situation said nursing homes are not an appropriate setting for many younger people regardless of their injuries.


'It wasn't a brain injury unit; it was an old folks home'


One person is Brian Hogan, a 46-year-old Limerick man who spent several months in a nursing home in his early 30s.


During a night out in Nottingham in 2009, the Limerick man was punched by a stranger and hit his head off the ground. He told friends and paramedics he was okay, but subsequently suffered a severe brain bleed and was placed into an induced coma.


After a period in the hospital, he was transferred to a nursing home, a situation he said was "like getting a second assault".


Report by the Ombudsman


Ombudsman Ger Deering said while the HSE is making some progress on the issue, more needs to be done.


He said his office's 'Wasted Lives' investigation in 2021 found more than 1,300 people aged between 20 and 65 were in nursing homes and that his office will be publishing a review of the situation later this year.


"People might be surprised to know that some of the people who are in nursing homes actually go to work on a daily basis. So it's very evident that they can support themselves, they can manage life in general, but they need a little bit of extra help," Mr Deering said.


Summary


At first glance, one might be shocked at the situation in Ireland where younger people are being placed in nursing homes because of the lack of appropriate placements. But we only have to look at our own situation in England where young people with autism are being moved to services miles away from their parents because there are no appropriate places available in their own locality.


In both cases, the situation is caused by the lack of foresight, planning, and making the required funding available.


In Ireland, the setting up of an Integrated Steering Committee to implement the recommendations of the ombudsman's 2021 'Wasted Lives' report is a step in the right direction, as it will bring focus to the problem.


Albert Cook BA, MA & Fellow Charted Quality Institute

Managing Director

Bettal Quality Consultancy

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