Our elderly deserve better. An open letter to our TDs

This is a letter I have today written to my local representatives in government, and have published here, for wider circulation.

Reading Marese McDonagh’s piece in today’s Irish Times has made me so angry. Angrier than I ever recall being over the past five years. Enough is enough.

Because I have had a home, and income, my health and my independence, I selfishly haven’t done enough to protest against injustices over the past five years.  But this is my tipping point. I can’t stand by any longer.
____________________________________________________________________________

Dear ….

I write to you, as my local representative in government, including the link below to an article in today’s Irish Times.

http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/health/2012/1204/1224327432416.html

If you have not already read this article, I urge you to take just two minutes to read it in detail. Absorb it. And think about what it really means. Put yourself in the shoes of someone who is housebound and dependent on an hour of help a week to maintain just their basic dignity. Really think about it.

I urge you strongly to reconsider the decisions this government has made with regard to the provision of home help cuts in our country.

Enough is enough. What your goverment is doing to the weakest and most vulnerable in our society is wrong, and it has to stop. These cuts must be reversed.

No, providing for the most vulnerable in our society won’t help the economic recovery. But the way we care for our elderly tells, more starkly than any economic indicators ever could, the type of society we really are. 

Is this really the type of society you want to preside over? Really? The type of society that will leave an incontinent woman lying alone in a bed, waiting for her home help to arrive to attempt to restore her some dignity in the space of half an hour? Really? Is this really what we have come to as a country?

Yes, families have responsibilities to older members, but sadly, these responsibilities for whatever reason are not always met. That absolutely does not mean it is acceptable to abandon the people who have called this country home for decades, who have contributed to its economic growth, have raised children and grown their businesses here. To leave them to the mercy of their own physical and mental frailties. Like it or not, we have a duty of care towards these people. They are our parents. Our grandparents.

As a direct consequence of your actions, thousands of our elderly will become directly reliant on the HSE to provide them with care, at the expense of those with chronic illness. Can you not appreciate how short-sighted this is? Remember, this is the same HSE that thinks it is perfectly acceptable to place cystic fibrosis patients, at high risk of infection, in shared wards and in rooms with shared facilities. In a hospital that is suffering with a severe outbreak of the winter vomiting bug. A HSE that has already shown itself, many times over to be inept at bed management. Yet you appear to fail to realise the potential impact of adding more long-term patients to the system, both in terms of bed availability and overall standards of care.

Is this really what you want to leave as your legacy? Really?

We will all be old one day. We may not all be privileged, or have a voice to speak up for ourselves. But we will eventually all succumb to the limitations of our bodies, and possibly even our minds.You cannot in all good conscience argue that this should mean our dignity should also be sacrificed.

This is only one of a number of letters I could have written. I could have written in anger about how your government has not delivered on your promises on mental health. How education aids for those who really, really need them are being cut, quietly, all around the country. I could have written about how your government continues to justify the payment of €30+bn of OUR money to a dead, gambling entity, in order to fulfil the conditions laid out by our European friends. I understand that patience is necessary when dealing with Europe, and that demonstrating prudency and economic discipline can only help in our quest for debt restructuring. But what you are doing to achieve this is wrong. Wrong on so many levels.

I’m a “middle earner”. I’m not well off. By no means. I drive a car that’s 10 years old, can’t afford health insurance and have a certain level of personal debt. But for goodness’ sake, I have a job and an income and I am not reliant on anyone to care for me, and I can stand up for myself when I feel I am being unfairly treated. I’m the person you should be targeting for cuts and levies, if it needs to be done. No, it wouldn’t be popular with voters. I know, and am not dismissing the plight of many middle earners – particularly homeowners – are already under severe pressure. But we are not confined to beds or empty houses with no independence. What you are doing is not right. It is just not right.

I’m tired of being angry. I’m tired of feeling that we are merely postponing the inevitable sinking of our society. But I’m not tired enough to stop fighting for the care of those who need and deserve it the most, and, as representatives paid by us, to represent the interests of EVERY citizen in this country, neither should you.

I want to know what you, as a paid public representative are going to do, to restore this tiny amount of dignity to our elderly by restoring home help hours to their previous (already woefully inadequate) levels. Writing to you is the first step of many. I, like many others have been silent for too long already. I will not stop until I hear evidence that you are taking definitive action to improve the circumstances of those fellow citizens who rely on their home help to provide them with a minimal level of dignity.

I await your reply.

Anne-Marie Flynn.

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