Home Columnists Mary Theresa Lowndes: The fair deal scheme is anything but fair

Mary Theresa Lowndes: The fair deal scheme is anything but fair

I have no time for nursing homes. The old people used to call them the home. And to have to end up in the home was a shocking thing.

And now I realise that they were right. Residents no longer have control over their finances or their lives and freedom and privacy is no more. It is very unfortunate and sad when a person has to go into a nursing home.

But you would expect your family member to be safe in these places. Covid-19 has become a huge problem for nursing homes and many residents have sadly passed from the virus.

The residents in the homes never went anywhere so the disease was brought to them. The minute there was the slightest hint of a virus in China the nursing homes and everywhere else should have been preparing.

It is very hard for a person facing the end of life. To be aware that one will never ever see one’s family or grandchildren again is the greatest heartbreak anyone will ever face.

And people deserve free end of life care, preferably in their own homes. A nursing home should be a last resort and all nursing homes should be public.

Most elderly people were the people who got up early in the morning. They looked after their families and built up our country.

Many of them went through very hard times and worked very hard. Many worked hard jobs for low pay and scrimped and struggled so that they would own their own homes. Home ownership is very important to Irish people because it makes them feel safe and secure.

To demand 80% of their pension and a percentage of their property at the end of their lives after all their hard work is a blatant, downright and bare-faced robbery.

All decent people want to leave whatever bit of money and property they have to their children and grandchildren. Also Irish people like to keep property in the family name if at all possible. This tradition is very important, especially to rural people, and it is a worry for many elderly people.

The average cost of a nursing home is in or around €1,000 per resident per week. Some of this comes from the residents income and their property and the rest is subsidised by the HSE.

The government is giving extra financial help to nursing homes during the Covid-19 crisis. The health care assistants who are trained have to work for low pay which is very unfair. The private nursing homes are for profit.

When a person applies for the unfair fair deal or a family member applies on their behalf they have to fill an application form and provide proof of their income, usually a pension, and if they own their own home and property they have to provide proof also.

They have to get their property valued by an auctioneer. That is their privacy gone straight away. And older people find it very hard to have to divulge their business to anyone and no blame to them. They will pay 80% of their pension and according to the HSE

“You will also pay 7.5% (3.75% if you are part of a couple) of your assets such as land or property. The first €36,000 (€72,000 if you are part of a couple) of your assets is excluded from the assessment”

I detest and resent the fact that the family home is assessed. To the HSE it is a house. But to the owner it is a home filled with memories and they want to pass it on to their own flesh and blood. The HSE goes on to point out:

“The main property where you live will only be included in the financial assessment for three years while in care. This is known as the 22.5% or ‘three-year cap”.

22.5% amounts to a lot of money, reducing the value of the house for the person inheriting it. It will reduce the value of the house that became a loving home.

A farm or business is not safe either. But the three year cap will apply to a farm or business if the person became suddenly ill or had a sudden accident resulting in the need for long term care and if the person ran the business or farm up to the time of the sudden illness.

And it is also a requirement that a family member show proof that he or she will continue to manage the farm or business. But even with the three year cap on the farm or business it will amount to a substantial sum of money and may plunge the inheritor into serious debt.

And all of that doesn’t cover extras. I know families who were billed for things like a tube of arnica cream, medication not covered by the medical card, chiropody etc.

I heard of a situation where a resident liked milk and the family had to bring in a pint of milk when visiting. And if you go into care and you signed over your property to a child within the last five years they will look at that too and assess it.

They don’t take your children’s income into consideration, how very kind of them. You can read the whole complicated details on the HSE site. Also check out Citizens Information.

I believe that everyone should protest against this unfair fair deal. And people should not sign up for it. If enough people refused it they would have to get rid of it.

Our state should respect the elderly and thank them for their contribution to the state by giving them free and compassionate care during their final years, preferably in their own home. Nursing homes should be the very last resort.

And if it has to be a nursing home, protest about the unfair fair deal and do not sign up for it.

SEE ALSO – Mary Theresa Lowndes: The Ireland of old was not the most pleasant of places

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Mary Theresa Lowndes describes herself as a 'Golden Oldie' living in her 60s. She went to college late in life as a mature students and has a degree in Sociology and Social Policy from Trinity College and a masters in journalism from DIT.