I wish to raise a very sensitive and emotive issue relating to the delivery of home care support services. Changes to the disability home support packages are causing immense distress and anxiety to many families who avail of these services. A constituent of mine contacted me last week regarding her daughter, Fran. Fran is 31 years old and profoundly intellectually disabled. She has refractory epilepsy. When unwell, she can have a seizure every five to ten minutes. She also has epidermal nevus syndrome, a rare skin disorder. She experiences rapid mood changes and sensory overload when changes to her environment or routine occur. Fran is normally good-humoured and happy. She can verbalise with loud shouting sounds when stressed or anxious, but is otherwise unable to express herself or communicate. Covid has caused Fran's personal routine to go out the window. This has resulted in her lashing out and a major regression in her personality and mood which, in turn, makes life very difficult for the family.
Fran's parents are her full-time carers. Her mother, Paula, was awarded carer of the year last year. I was present at the award ceremony. In the same week Paula received the award, she was diagnosed with kidney cancer. She is currently undergoing treatment and has been further diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, COPD, cardiac issues and osteoarthritis. This family was in turmoil and already had its hands full when this cancer-suffering mother received a phone call from the HSE to inform her that Fran's carer of some ten years would be replaced within 48 hours by the HSE without any prior warning. The call to tell her that a new carer would take over on Friday came on Wednesday. It is unbelievably upsetting. I know the personal circumstances of the family. I might as well tell the Minister of State that similar calls came in rapidly from my constituents as the week evolved.
I was contacted by the family of a woman named Mary. She is 68 years old and has Parkinson's disease and intellectual disabilities. Mary likes and needs routine. Her world has been turned upside down already this year with the arrival of Covid, resulting in her not being able to attend her beloved centre every day. This has affected Mary deeply. She cannot understand this monumental change in her life. Mary lives in a predominantly male environment with her 88 year old father, so her carer has been a pivotal part of her life for the past 12 years. The family just cannot understand how the HSE can expect Mary and the rest of the family to accept such a massive upheaval and have a complete stranger come into their home and lives. Such a change would be difficult at any time, but it is particularly challenging in the midst of Covid.
I will not mention the other cases. This situation is too upsetting to bear. It is happening as a result of the HSE realigning home care support services to two sections, namely, disability services and older persons services. I do not believe that it is as simple as that in terms of the delivery of home support services. I ask the Minister of State to fully explain the current changes in the south east community healthcare home support packages within disability services. As I have outlined, the changes are having a grave impact.