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Why Belfast man Tony won't let terminally-ill wife Eilish go into a care home

'She lay unwashed for four days when the carers stopped coming'

By Laura Abernethy

Published 30/10/2015

Tony Hillings and his bed-ridden wife Eilish at their Poleglass home
Tony Hillings and his bed-ridden wife Eilish at their Poleglass home
Tony and Eilish Hillings

A Belfast man has vowed that he will not send his beloved wife into a care home because he cannot bear to be apart from her.

Tony Hillings (55), from Poleglass, claimed his terminally-ill wife Eilish was not washed for more than four days after her home care was stopped.

He said that carers stopped coming into help his bed-bound wife on Sunday and it was only yesterday that district nurses were able to clean her.

Eilish (72) was diagnosed with dementia 20 months ago and in July her family was told that she was dying.

She had been receiving care at home since June as Mr Hillings is waiting for heart surgery and he said he felt that he was no longer able to look after her without help.

However, Mr Hillings was not happy with the care she was receiving and he put in a number of complaints.

He said: "I felt that their work wasn't up to standard. She was getting things like ingrowing toenails and she started to have rashes from not being washed properly. She had pressure sores. I started to complain about this."

He added: "She's very fearful of men and when they started to send male carers in she got upset. It was distressing for her."

He claims that the situation became more serious this week when carers stopped coming in altogether.

He said: "I was waiting on the carers coming on Monday morning but they didn't come. My daughter-in-law phoned and she was informed that they're trying to get another agency in place. They sent two nurses in today and that was the first time she was washed in over 100 hours."

He said that it is important that his wife is looked after in their house rather than a care home. He said: "As long as I'm alive, she will not be going into a home. If that happened, she would be dead within months. She is much better here in an environment she knows."

The couple have been together for 36 years and they married in 1985. Mrs Hillings has a son, Robert, and Mr Hillings said that he has raised him since he was two years-old. They also have two grandchildren named Anthony and Ciaran.

"Before she became ill, she would have done anything for anybody. She was totally devoted to her son, her grandchildren and her daughter-in-law Jolene. She was so kind-hearted.

"We've had our ups and downs like any other couple but I wouldn't be without her now. She is my life. My one and only. I couldn't bear to be apart from her now."

He said that it is cruel that his beloved wife, who used to love dancing to country music and watching Coronation Street, is now unable to do anything for herself.

He said: "I sit by her bedside and do everything I can but it's causing stress to both of us. I worry about her but I worry about myself as well. It's made my health worse.

"I think it's a disgrace that we've been left like this."

The South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust said they could not comment on an individual case.

Yesterday the Commissioner for Older People for Northern Ireland, Claire Keatinge issued advice to the Minister for Health, Social Services and Public Safety and said that older people need more and better care at home to live dignified and fulfilled lives.

Speaking as a report about Domiciliary Care in Northern Ireland was released, Ms Keatinge said: "Despite carrying out vital work enabling older people to remain at home, domiciliary care workers do not receive the pay or training they deserve. Families and friends are also inadequately supported as they provide unpaid care for loved ones with complex care needs, many of whom live with dementia."

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