Kieran Foley Reports
THE Holy Ghost Residential Home is amongst the oldest charitable institutions in Waterford City still carrying out the intentions of its founders.
On August 15th 1545, James Henry Walsh received a charter from King Henry VIII that the house be owned by the charity, governed by a Board of Trustees and their successors.
In 2017, this tradition continues as the Holy Ghost Home is still run as a non-profit charitable organisation, governed by a Board of Trustees and the Charities Regulator.
The Holy Ghost Home provides supported residential care to the elderly population of Waterford City, County, and surrounding catchment areas.
Manager Bridget Roche describes the Holy Ghost Home as offering a “unique service” in Waterford, responding to the needs of older persons finding it difficult to manage at home but not requiring full time nursing home care.
All involved with the Home, which has a capacity of 60, hope to continue enhancing care to senior citizens in Waterford.
Fundraising is currently taking place in order to provide en suite facilities to residents’ rooms – a task described as a “huge undertaking”.
Bridget says there is a “misconception” as to what the Holy Ghost Home actually is and the services which are provided.
“We’re not a nursing home, we’re a supportive care home,” she explained.
“We provide a social/medical model. Residents at the Holy Ghost still retain a level of independence. If an older person requires supportive care and they receive it, it improves their life and they still have something to give back to society and they are still a part of their community.”
The holistic needs of the residents are catered for to ensure they continue to enjoy a good quality of life, and the care received often reduces the level of hospital admissions.
Around 95 per cent of the residents at the Holy Ghost are referred from the HSE.
“We’re filling a gap and it’s cost effective. Nationally, this model is helping to save money,” said Bridget.
“Ireland has to look at the way we care for older people. Research shows that Norway and Sweden have the best health systems in the world. In both countries, you don’t go into a nursing home until at least the last six months of your life. Prior to that, it’s all about care in the community. They have a different outlook.”
There are many activities offered to residents at the Holy Ghost, and the staging of these is heavily reliant on the goodwill of volunteers who come in to provide such services.
Activities include Bingo, Music to Movement, Stars in Their Eyes, Strictly Come Dancing, BBQs, and Christmas parties.
Many singers visit the Home voluntarily, including Dordán and Bim Connors.
Fr Richard Walsh from the Dominican Church visits every Tuesday afternoon and says Mass in the Oratory (as well as calling each Saturday night), while Sr Kay also regularly calls with Holy Communion.
A bus is available for use by the residents who enjoy regular trips to different locations, including Tramore, Woodstown, Dunmore or just a short trip into the city centre.
Residents have also been to Mount Melleray, stopping off at Bridgie Terries for food and music on the way back.
The money for this bus was raised as a result of fundraising carried out by the Friends of the Holy Ghost.
Any of the improvements which have been made at the Home, and any of the extra services which have been offered, are as a result of the goodwill of the people of Waterford through the Friends of the Holy Ghost.
“We depend on the people of Waterford,” said Bridget.
The Friends of the Holy Ghost was formed in 2010 and currently includes Chair Michael Sheridan, Vice Chair Cllr Cha O’Neill, Secretary Catherina McEvoy, Treasurer Mavis Cullen, staff members at Holy Ghost CJ Aldridge and Sheila McGrath, Board of Trustees member Hilary Quinlan and volunteer Paul Carroll.
The late Billy McCarthy of WLR fame was also a member and is fondly remembered by all involved with the Holy Ghost.
His connection began when he was visiting his aunt who was a resident at the Holy Ghost.
“He really went beyond the call of duty,” said Hilary Quinlan.
The proceeds from ‘A Night for Billy’ which was staged at the Theatre Royal in June were donated to the Friends of the Holy Ghost.
“All of his colleagues at WLR knew about his connection with the Holy Ghost and how much he loved the place,” said Bridget.
“He was a great presence whenever he came in. At Christmas he would always sing and all the residents looked forward to Billy’s slot and all his show songs. Last Christmas was so different without him, but we had ‘White Christmas’ sung in his memory.”
Owner and Editor of The Munster Express the late JJ Walsh also enjoyed a long association with the Holy Ghost and served as Master for many years.
Bridget says she has seen the difference which life in the Home makes to people’s lives.
She explained that the average length of stay is about five years but that some residents have stayed up to ten years.
It’s the support structure and peace of mind, combined with independence, which makes the Holy Ghost so attractive.
Residents can enjoy the security of having a 24 hour call bell in their room and the knowledge that help is always at hand if required.
“There’s CCTV on the grounds and residents feel very safe,” said Bridget.
“The residents are settled and feel secure. It’s very much a homelike setting. They keep their independence but can get assistance if they need it and we’re in the heart of the city, near all of the amenities, so the residents can retain their community links.”
Residents can also retain their own GP service but staff at the Holy Ghost can intervene if an issue is identified.
“When a resident becomes unwell, we can identify the issue and intervene and ensure the correct supports are in place,” explained Bridget.
Residents have their own Residents Association and regular satisfaction surveys are carried out.
“They are very forthcoming and will tell you what they like or wouldn’t like,” said Bridget.
“Once they’re happy, we’re happy. The whole objective of everyone here is to deliver care for residents. This is not a workplace, we work in their home. This is the residents’ home.”
However, Bridget highlighted the difficulties in ensuring that the relevant authorities recognise the exact type of service which is provided at the Holy Ghost Home.
The Home comes under the same regulations and protocols as nursing homes, however, their staffing and skills mix is different due to the type of care provided.
“In the UK they have different regulations for different levels of care,” said Bridget.
“We totally agree with regulations and agree that we should be monitored, but make the regulations realistic and achievable for the type of setting we are.”
Residents have also been involved in a study with Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) and students from healthcare and social care courses regularly come on placement to assist with duties.
Residents are also currently working on an intergenerational project with local students.
The activities of both the Board and the Friends of the Holy Ghost are undertaken on a voluntary basis and Bridget praised the work and commitment of all involved.
Hilary Quinlan is the current Master of the Board of Trustees and has been involved with the running of the home since 1985.
He highlighted the importance of the fundraising efforts which take place.
A successful fundraiser was held on the Waterford Greenway earlier this year in association with Dordán – which even had former Taoiseach Enda Kenny stopping off while travelling along the new route.
A ‘Christmas Lite Concert’ in aid of the Friends of the Holy Ghost, and spearheaded by Dordán, will be held at the WIT College Street Campus, Cork Road on Wednesday 13th December at 8pm featuring Dordán, The Kalimbas, Valerie Leahy, Dominic Mc Gorian, Donna Roche, the Edmund Rice Choral Society and Dúnaill Folk Group.
“We’re a charity trying to break even, so this concert is major for us,” said Hilary.
“Dordán have been very supportive to use and very good for the Home.”
Tickets, which are €15, are available from Garter Lane (www.garterlane.ie/051-855038).
There are further exciting developments taking place at the Holy Ghost Home which will be revealed in the New Year.
These will further enhance the facilities for residents and will ensure that the Holy Ghost Homes continues to provide excellent care for the older citizens of Waterford and the surrounding areas.