My life will be over, says Parkinson's sufferer Ita of trust plan to move day care service
It may be only seven miles away, but the prospect of having to travel that extra distance for day care services has caused an 81-year-old woman with Parkinson's disease to claim that "her life will be over".
Frail Ita Flanagan lives five miles outside the village of Gortin in Co Tyrone, where she is one of 14 elderly people who attend the local community centre every Monday.
However, due to new proposals by the Western Health and Social Care Trust as part of reforms of older people's day care services, the 14 will be asked to attend a centre in Newtownstewart instead.
But Ita counts the regular Monday visit as her social lifeline, says she does not want to move to Newtownstewart by March next year.
She claims that the proposals will affect her quality of life as she probably won't attend the new centre.
The retired primary school teacher and grandmother told the Belfast Telegraph: "I don't care if I sound difficult or am being selfish, but I won't be moving.
"I just live for coming to the day centre every Monday. I've worked all my life and paid my taxes and feel that this is harmful to me and my other friends.
"With my Parkinson's disease, anything that takes me out of my comfort zone leaves me shaking and taking panic attacks. I don't think I will be up for it. I'm really worried that my life now will be over."
Most of the 14 people who attend the Owenkillew Centre in Gortin are aged between 70 and 80, with four aged from 90-96.
Half of the nine women and five men live on their own, which means the weekly opportunity of having talks, doing chair exercises, playing games and enjoying lunch with their peers is important for their social well-being.
Most use either a wheelchair or walking aid and suffer from severe arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, are visually impaired, hearing impaired, with advanced Parkinson's or severe Huntington's disease.
A trust spokeswoman stressed that the recommended changes to day care services was to improve them.
She added: "Existing service users will continue to receive the quality of day care they currently receive in either a level one or level two day centre, and they may receive day care in a different facility that better meets their needs.
"The trust will review current transport services to ensure that all service users can be accommodated in a timely manner."
Gortin centre manager Angela O'Brien said: "We fear that the prospect of moving to Newtownstewart will be too much for our users and they won't use the service.
"We have recently started a petition asking the trust to change its decision."