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'incredibly frustrating' Wexford woman stuck in care home yards from her house due to lack of home help

"It is incredibly frustrating I can actually sit at the window in my room and wave goodnight to my husband Willie above in our house"

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Carmel McCormack

Carmel McCormack

Carmel McCormack

A plucky pensioner has revealed her frustration at having to stay in a nursing home just yards from her own home as there are no carers available to give her the home help care she requires.

Carmel McCormack, (74), from New Ross, County Wexford, was transferred from hospital to the SignaCare nursing home near New Ross, nineteen months ago and has been on a discharge list for the last nine months, meaning she is well enough to return to her two bed bungalow just a three minute walk from where she is now.

In 2016 a suspected bout of meningitis left Carmel in a coma for five months and she is now confined to a wheelchair, and needs assistance getting in and out of bed but a national shortage of carers has left her unable to find any, and the cost of hiring one privately is prohibitive.

She told the Sunday World: “It is incredibly frustrating I can actually sit at the window in my room and wave goodnight to my husband Willie above in our house, he collects me four days a week and we have a three minute walk to our home.

“The problem is that during Covid, patients didn’t want the home help nurses coming into their house after helping others, they were afraid of catching the virus, also the carers were a bit scared that they might get it themselves, with the result a lot of them left for other lines of work which means there is not enough staff available now.

“Just because I understand what the problem is doesn’t make it any easier to accept though, and although I get the most tremendous care in here it’s just not home.

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20/10/2021 Carmel and Willie McCormack photographed in their home. Photo; Mary Browne

20/10/2021 Carmel and Willie McCormack photographed in their home. Photo; Mary Browne

20/10/2021 Carmel and Willie McCormack photographed in their home. Photo; Mary Browne

“When I came in initially I thought it was for respite care, but when after six weeks there was no sign of me leaving I started to ask questions about when I was leaving and was taken aback to find out I was in here for the long haul.

“That kind of floored me a bit and I have been fighting to get out every day since, look apart from muscle deterioration due to being in the chair, I am perfectly healthy.

“It’s very hard here at times as many residents have dementia. I have a young outlook on life. I miss Willie. Sometimes I imagine he is in the room. Sometimes I walk up to the window and call him.

“It’s a strange sort of life because we did everything together and were involved in everything together went to concerts, did it all.

“If it wasn’t for the staff – who are absolutely brilliant – I would have cracked up long ago.”

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Carmel and Willie McCormack at home last week, celebrating 50 years of married life.

Carmel and Willie McCormack at home last week, celebrating 50 years of married life.

Carmel and Willie McCormack at home last week, celebrating 50 years of married life.

Carmel availed of a home package prior to being admitted to Wexford General Hospital.

“All I want is the basic home package: One hour in the morning and a half an hour in the evening – just to help out and get me out of bed and assist me in the shower and to get changed in the evening.

“If I was to hire a carer privately it would cost anything up to €75 a day and while the angels who work in that field deserve every euro they get I couldn’t afford that, myself and Willie are both on the state pension so we just couldn’t manage it.

”I’ll tell you what was tough, when we had our Golden Jubilee wedding anniversary with Willie almost within touching distance and me not able to get to him.

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Willie and Carmel on their wedding day.

Willie and Carmel on their wedding day.

Willie and Carmel on their wedding day.

“Since I have been incarcerated in here, I lost my seventeen year old granddaughter who took her own life and that had was so difficult to deal with as I couldn’t even get to the funeral due to Covid restrictions.

“A number of other family members have also passed away so it’s been tough, very tough actually, and the worst thing is doctors have told me I am fit enough to go home but until a care package can be arranged I can’t.

“I don’t allow the wheelchair to define me, since I have been in it I have been abroad on holidays and travelled all around Ireland to drama festivals, something I always loved, the only awkward thing was we had to move house.

“The previous place we lived in had a set of steps up to the door so clearly that wasn’t suitable for a wheelchair user.

“We then sold up and bought this lovely two bed bungalow which I can now see every day but can’t get into at all.

“I was always into drama and musicals, now I feel like singing ‘Show me the way to go home’, but if I was allowed to go home they wouldn’t have to show me just push me out the door of the nursing home and I could nearly fall straight into my own place.

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Willie and Carmel McCormack with their son Tomás, daughter-in-law Elaine, and granddaughters Roisín and Blathnaid at their golden anniversary party.

Willie and Carmel McCormack with their son Tomás, daughter-in-law Elaine, and granddaughters Roisín and Blathnaid at their golden anniversary party.

Willie and Carmel McCormack with their son Tomás, daughter-in-law Elaine, and granddaughters Roisín and Blathnaid at their golden anniversary party.

“I can’t put the blame on anyone the staff just aren’t there and as far as I am concerned the sooner it’s sorted the better,” Carmel added.

The HSE's Chief Operations Officer, Anne O'Connor, said at a recent press briefing said: "Sometimes the pressures on not just on the hospitals, so a very real challenge that we have relates to home support.

"We are very challenged in getting home support workers in a number of parts of the country now, and that is not a funding issue, there is plenty of funding for home support. We cannot get carers. If you take the southeast, they’re currently running their fourth recruitment campaign for carers, they can’t get them in either the HSE services, or the contracted services.

"So, this is real issue that we have currently, and home support has a very big impact on our ability to keep people out of hospital, or to take them out when they’ve been admitted.

"And that actually is a very real concern – so, when you look at the whole health system, the numbers are… there are different challenges in different areas."

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