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Ballymoney family fearing the worst after being forced to bring home sick father-in-law

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Jack Schofield with his grandchild pre-surgery

Jack Schofield with his grandchild pre-surgery

Clare-Anne Magee

Clare-Anne Magee

Jack Schofield with his grandchild pre-surgery

A family forced to care for an elderly relative without support fear he could be dying without them knowing.

Jack Schofield has Alzheimer's and dementia - and was discharged from hospital five weeks ago after surgery for a broken hip.

Normally a stint of rehab would follow - but because of Covid-19 that was not an option.

His family was given a choice - either they could drop him to a care facility where they would be unable to see him until the pandemic was over, or they could bring him back home to Ballymoney.

Janet Schofield, Jack's daughter-in-law, said: "You knew that people were dying in care homes.

"For me it wasn't a choice - it was 'do you want to send your father to the frontline or do you want to try and manage'?

"We knew the best place for him was at home, but we never thought we would be left completely on our own."

Since coming home, Jack has stopped eating and lost a stone.

The MRI booked to check if his bladder cancer had returned has been cancelled.

Before Covid-19, the 86-year-old was visited by health professionals three times a day.

After leaving hospital last month he has developed double incontinence and is barely able to walk.

His son and daughter-in-law are entirely responsible for his personal care.

Janet said: "We are left with a situation where we don't know what's going on in his body and he's potentially dying without us knowing - we cannot get the tests.

"We know that there is something going on and we have no way of knowing exactly what is going on."

A survey by Carers UK found carers in Northern Ireland were working 10 hours more a week since the coronavirus crisis began.

More than 60% feared they would burn out.

Clare-Anne Magee, head of Carers NI, said carers and care workers had been overlooked in the response to Covid-19.

She wants Stormont to raise the carer allowance from £67.25 a week and increase PPE and testing for care workers and unpaid carers.

Currently only about one in five of Northern Ireland's 220,000 carers get the benefit, she said.

Ms Magee added: "There's been a lot of focus on the frontline staff and rightly so, but there's a lot of work happening in the background within families who are just trying to keep themselves afloat.

"The initial panic has subsided a little bit and it's now thinking about the longer term planning."

The Department of Health was contacted for comment on this story.

Belfast Telegraph