Lack of adequate State support by way of nursing home subventions is leaving some families unbearably pressurised, particularly now that so many people are losing their jobs and being put on short-time.

That view has been voiced by Waterford City Councillor David Cullinane (SF) who wants more aid for families who have to place elderly relatives in care and simply don’t have the money to meet the cost.

“Despite existing demands on the exchequer, this is something which needs urgent attention in the interests of basic social justice”, said Cllr Cullinane. “If it is socially right to provide more funding then it should be done, irrespective of the state of government finances”.

“The elderly people concerned have served the State well and they are entitled to dignity and respect in their final years, instead of being dependent on family members who in many situations simply are already scarcely resourced”.

Out of date

He said the health authorities had calculated the average cost of nursing home care at €650 per week, but in his experience that figure was long out of date and subventions of €331, sometimes rising on appeal to €461, left an unfair burden on families to find the balance, particularly in the case of small families. And if they were hit by unemployment or short time then their position was worse again.

“The €650 figure needs to be adjusted upwards to at least €800”, he said, “and subventions increased accordingly. If Minister Harney’s ‘fair deal’ policy is to have any meaning then something needs to be done quickly”. Under that policy nursing home residents are entitled to at least 80 pc of the cost of their care.