Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 17 April 2014

Authorities must think this through

Ideally we would all like to live in our own homes for the rest of our lives, but frailty or other reasons can make that impossible.

 In such circumstances we expect the state to step in with a care package. Residential care homes can be a lifeline for many elderly people, providing them with the necessary support and also giving them companionship with their peers.

Little wonder that the 150 people who live in nine homes which the Northern Health Trust proposes to close are fearful of their future.

They are among the first to see the reality of the Transferring Your Care programme under which around half of residential homes in Northern Ireland will close.

There are two issues which have to be addressed when considering this programme. One is the level of care which will be provided. The other is the cost of current care provision.

When the programme is implemented it will mean that elderly people will be supported to live in their own homes or else will have to seek private care accommodation, which is likely to be more expensive that the current state provision.

There are also concerns if a profit-seeking enterprise can provide the same level of care as a state facility.

Supporting people to live in their own homes seems a sensible option, but what will be the level of support and will it mean many elderly people living in isolation for many hours each day? Care in the community is not quite the panacea that its supporters would have us believe.

Ultimately the main priority should be the elderly people involved.

Those facing removal from the nine homes in the Northern Trust area are being burdened with apprehension and uncertainty at a time in their lives when they should feel contented. There is strong opposition to the Trust's plans and it is not too late for it to reconsider.

Are the savings to be made so great that they outweigh the needs of a relatively small number of people and justify creating a climate of fear?

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