Major medical advances and improvements in nutrition, housing, sanitary and water facilities have meant that people are living on average almost ten years longer than at the beginning of this century. This has meant that we have a growing ageing population, and the need to continue to improve the services for these people is of paramount importance to all of us in public life and to those providing that care.
Those who are old belong to a generation that did not enjoy for the greater part of their life anything like the kind of facilities which are available now. In my constituency we are fortunate to have a standard of nursing and medical care of excellent quality in the Hospital of the Assumption in Thurles and in a range of nursing homes.
I want to refer this evening to two cases that have been brought to my attention. I am not asking the Minister to investigate the cases individually but to see how subventions to nursing homes could be reviewed in such cases. One is the case of a very old gentleman, all of whose family of five have now retired and on pensions. These five individuals, dedicated to their father have, for the past year, raised from their own meagre pensions £20 a week to keep their father in a nursing home. Their case was examined recently and they were advised that they would receive a subvention of about £23 a week. Notwithstanding financial constraints and demands on the health services, this is something that should be remedied.
The second example relates to members of families who should, in the normal way, contribute towards the maintenance of their parents and relations from whom they received the benefits we all receive from good parents, including, in some cases, inheritances of one kind or another but who, because they have left the area, or for other reasons, refuse to be involved in contributing to the maintenance of their parents. In such circumstances the members of the family who remain at home may find themselves stretched to the limit to try to cope with the full cost. There are more and more examples like this. I am advocating a lack of responsibility on the part of those who should share the responsibility, but when one family has to carry a burden that is excessive, a way should be found to lighten the burden.
The midwest region has made a major contribution to improving the services in the hospitals and community care areas. I accept it is not possible to meet all the demands but if we cannot find a way in good economic times to look after the aged perhaps some of the other issues we tackle should be set in priorities. I make that appeal to see what can be done to improve the situation.