Belfast Telegraph

Charity for elderly concerned for Rose Court home residents

By Lisa Smyth

The head of a charity that advocates for older people has expressed distress at the treatment of residents living in a Co Antrim care home.

The chief executive of Age NI was responding to the closure of the nursing unit at Rose Court in Ballymena which came amid claims of a staff walk-out over concerns for the safety of residents.

Runwood Homes, the company that owns Rose Court, said it took the decision to turn the nursing unit into a residential unit due to staffing shortages.

Families of residents were given just a few weeks to find alternative accommodation, while an 89-year-old woman still living there was discharged by the home after she was taken to hospital by ambulance in the early hours of Monday morning.

Margaret O'Neill was found lying on the ground at 1.30am after she was left sitting in a chair as she was unable to sleep.

She is being treated for pneumonia at Antrim Area Hospital and a place in a new home had yet to be confirmed last night.

Mrs O'Neill's daughter, Fiona O'Neill, sobbed as she described the conditions in the home, including her mother going 48 hours without prescribed pain medication and finding communal underwear in her room. Linda Robinson from Age NI said: "It is deeply distressing to hear that some older people did not enjoy the level and quality of care we would expect for ourselves and our loved ones.

"Older people and their families must be empowered and enabled to take an active role in decisions on care and have their views and wishes listened to and acted upon. Compassion must be at the centre of health and social care for older people.

"Health and care providers must embed dignity and the promotion of human rights into all of their work and practice. Older people and their families should have access to helpful information and advice about who they can turn to if they have concerns about any aspect of care."

It is highly unusual to close a unit in a care home, due to the distress that it can cause residents having to leave familiar surroundings.

Last year, concerns were raised about the effect on the residents of another Runwood home when Northern Ireland's health watchdog was forced to close the facility stating that there was a serious risk to life.

Runwood Homes said previously: "The decision to repurpose the nursing unit at Rose Court, Ballymena, as a residential unit was taken in early August after consultation with key stakeholders concluded that the continued management of a nursing service was not viable due to a national, ongoing shortage of registered nurses. For legal and professional reasons, we cannot go into the specifics of care for individual residents.

"However, we can say this resident was made several offers of alternative accommodation and has turned them all down because she wishes to remain at Rose Court."

Ms Robinson said Age NI offers free and confidential information and advice for older people and their families through a dedicated advice service.

To speak to a specialist advisor, freephone 0808 808 7575 or log on to www.ageni.org.

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