Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Care of Elderly.


asked the Minister for Health the initiatives he has in 1989 to establish district nursing panels and adequate care facilities for the elderly in the community through the health boards; and the aspects of the recent Care for the Elderly report which he intends to implement at present.


asked the Minister for Health if he will examine the possibility of introducing an incentive scheme that would encourage people to look after the elderly in the community.

I propose to take Questions Nos. 2 and 21 together.

My Department are currently consulting interested bodies about the recommendations of the Report of the Working Party on Services for the Elderly entitled The Years Ahead — A policy for the Elderly.

Health boards will shortly be invited to prepare detailed plans to implement the recommendations of the report for submission to my Department. These plans will form the basis for improving services for the elderly in coming years, including the extension of home nursing services for the elderly. Some recommendations of the report, particularly those concerning improved co-ordination of services, can be implemented without additional resources. Others will be implemented as resources permit.

The Government have agreed to introduce new legislation to provide for the licensing and registration of nursing homes and to provide a new framework for subventing nursing homes by health boards. Draft legislation is being prepared by the parliamentary draftsman at present.

The vast majority of elderly persons are cared for by their families at home. Deputy Keating may be referring to the financial hardship of persons who care for elderly relatives on a full-time basis and who have no independent income. One of the recommendations of the recent Working Party Report on Services for the Elderly was that "the recommendation of the Commission on Social Welfare, that carers be entitled to claim social assistance in their own right and that such entitlement should replace the Prescribed Relative Allowance, should be implemented". This recommendation is being pursued with the Department of Social Welfare.

Is the Minister aware that the most significant recommendation with regard to resources in this report entitled The Years Ahead — A Policy for the Elderly was that there was a desperate shortage of adequate public health nurses and home help visitations to the elderly in the community, who are growing in numbers? Has the Minister any proposals again this year to do something to improve this service or will this report merely gather dust like the others he has commissioned?

No, in fact the report contains a number of recommendations. It contains a very strong recommendation for carers, that some support should be made available to those who care because, as the House will be aware, the vast majority of elderly live in the community, indeed are entitled to live in their own home, if such is possible. Many live with their families and other relatives who care for them. There are 66,000 carers. That is one of the areas we are addressing, particularly in relation to giving them a respite, so that these people who care could go on holiday knowing that their elderly would be cared for in their absence. That is an example of one of the very important recommendations of the working group.

I am satisfied that the community care services are able to cope with the elderly. There are many improvements being effected, for example, to take just one, the change of payment within the GMS which will change the structure of how primary health care is delivered. I believe that all of this will help to improve the position of the elderly in our community.

There are still three questions to be disposed of in a little over five minutes. I am calling Question No. 3.