James Kenny and his wife Mary were once nurses at St. Patrick’s Hospital in Castlerea. James is now 84 years of age while Mary is 88. James and Mary live in the Castlerea area and have three grown-up children. Both used to provide much-needed care for patients as part of their day-to-day duties at the local facility, which has been shut since the 1990s.
Sadly, Mary took ill about 12 years ago and has since been diagnosed with dementia. Up until a year and a half ago, Mary had been cared for at home by James. However, James was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and as a result can no longer take care of his wife.
Their son, Kieran, bravely told their story in order to highlight the importance of developing appropriate facilities in the region.
“My mother has been sick for over twelve years, she has dementia. It wasn’t a rapid form of dementia and she has been stable for the past number of years. Presently, and for a long time back, she has had poor communication skills but she’s aware of where she is and who’s around her. She had been cared for at home by my dad up to the last year and a half.
“He got sick nearly two years ago and it transpired that he had Alzheimer’s. He’s gone downhill much quicker than she has in the time that he’s been sick. While they’re both now in a similar situation, he is able to communicate but has difficulties with memory.
“For over a year and a half we’ve had carers coming into the house looking after them – both HSE and private care,” Kieran said.
James and Mary had to be admitted to hospital last October. Mary spent ten weeks there while James spent six.
“They were in hospital until November and in fairness to the hospital, they arranged for convalescent care in the local nursing home. That covered us up to Christmas in terms of care. However, we’re at a crossroads since then and we don’t know what direction to take”.
Kieran and his family have been told that the appropriate care his father and mother require is available, but distance means it’s far from ideal.
“They tell me there’s a unit in Ballinasloe that would meet their needs, but that would be impractical for us because it’s too far from family members,” he said.
Kieran called on the HSE and all those responsible for health care in Co. Roscommon to give the current situation the consideration it deserves.
“I would ask them to look at the situation. Money isn’t everything and people of that age need a bit of care and we all need to look after them.
“As I said in my letter (to the HSE): isn’t it ironic that both of my parents worked for the HSE as nurses in the hospital here when it was open? It’s a bit disappointing that there isn’t someone to look after them in the community when they need it.
“In the present situation, we are convinced that if there isn’t something else suitable in the short-term then we’ll probably have to resort to bringing them home and putting another plan in place and that would involve 24-hour care,” he concluded.