I battled with trust to ensure husband with Alzheimer’s is cared for close to our home... and won my case
A woman allegedly excluded from decisions made by the Western Trust about her ill husband's care has been left traumatised by a legal battle she was forced to launch so she could keep her partner close to her.
Margaret Toland was told by the trust last February that her husband Joe, who has Alzheimer's disease, was being moved to a nursing home 40 miles away, leaving her facing a daily 80-mile commute to see him.
Mrs Toland challenged the trust and launched a legal fight against the decision, but a conclusion has yet to be reached.
While a place has now been found for her husband in Londonderry, the struggle left his wife exhausted. Despite that, she is encouraging others to stand up to large organisations.
Margaret and Joe married 42 years ago. While he has Alzheimer's, he still recognises her, which was one of the main reasons she wanted to keep him near.
Mrs Toland told this newspaper: "Joe stayed at home with me until May last year, when that was no longer possible.
"He moved into a private nursing home, but just over two weeks later he was moved again to the Waterside Hospital, which was okay because it is near our home in Eglinton, so I was able to see Joe every single day.
"One day last February, I was informed by the trust that Joe had been discharged and was being moved from the Waterside Hospital to Slieve Na Mon nursing home in Omagh.
"I was shocked, but more than that I was angry that they took this decision without consulting me. I was presented with the matter as if it were a fait accompli that I was supposed to accept, but there was no way I was going to accept that.
"They said Joe had been assessed for other nursing homes, but they couldn't take him and then said he could go to Omagh until a place in Derry could be found, but I knew if I accepted that, the minute Joe went across the threshold of the place in Omagh, that would be the end of the matter for the trust.
"I had to legally challenge the trust before a resolution was found, but the trust fought me tooth and nail, and even a request I made for a copy of Joe's medical notes still has not been fulfilled despite me having paid the fee and the 40-day deadline which the trust has to keep to ending on May 30."
Eventually, the Western Trust said a place had become available at a nursing home in Greenhaw in Derry city, which allows the couple to spend precious time together, but the fight to achieve this took a heavy toll on Mrs Toland.
"I am just an ordinary woman who wanted to be able to visit her husband every day, and I was going to fight for that," she said.
"I wonder about other people who are being told by these large organisations that the decision is made and they just accept it.
"I would encourage anyone who finds themselves in my position to say no because it is possible to win if you are determined and stick to your guns.
"The trust is supposed to help you when you or your loved ones are ill, but rather than support me, the trust added to the mental anguish felt by families who have someone suffering from Alzheimer's disease."
A spokeswoman for the Western Trust said that the organisation did not comment on individual cases, but added: "Families and carers are involved throughout the process of discharge planning and nursing home placement, and every effort is made to ensure the needs and wishes of the patient/ carers are considered.
"The Western Trust commissions nursing home beds across the geographical area to try and ensure that where possible people can be placed as near to their family home/carers as possible."