Daughter of 95-year-old dementia sufferers pleads for greater support

Geraldine and Jim Kelly.
Geraldine and Jim Kelly.

The daughter of a 95-year-old dementia sufferer who requires around-the-clock care in Culmore Manor has called on local politicians and the statutory health authorities to consider reviewing the level of financial support available to nursing home patients and their families.

Geraldine Kelley, whose mother Sadie McGinley has been a resident of the Culmore Road facility since she lost mobility in 2009, made the plea after weekly fees of over £500 she meets with other family members for her mother’s nursing care were hiked by an extra £25 per week in August.

Mrs. Kelley who is required to make what is referred to as a “third party top-up” for nursing care above and beyond the standard residential care costs, said the fees were becoming increasingly onerous.

This is partly because Mrs. McGinley’s former home - a modest terraced house in Barry Street - is valued at over £23,250, thus placing her over the asset threshold above which individuals are obliged to pay for the full cost of their care.

Mrs. Kelley says all her mother’s savings of £30,000 have already gone towards paying for her care and that even if the family home was sold the proceeds would be exhausted in a very short time.

“You absorb these things, as families do, because you have that bond,” said Mrs. Kelley.

“She is my mother and this needs to be done. But I think that as a general point this is clearly a system that needs to be looked at and carefully addressed because this is an ongoing issue.”

Mrs. Kelley pointed out that if her mother suffered an accident and was admitted to hospital tomorrow the cost of her care would have to be met by the state.

“She needs cranes to lift her. She needs her back rubbed. She’s turned every two hours. She can’t do anything at all for herself. She is fed. She is watered. It is full-time nursing. It’s a hospital bed, in effect, and that’s the bit where we differ, legislatively, I think, from the rest of the United Kingdom. If she were in England this would be paid,” she said.

Larchwood NI, which operates Culmore Manor, declined to comment but indicated the top up increase was related to annual inflation-linked tariffs set by the Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) each April.

Pauline Sheppard, Chief Executive of the Independent Health and Care Providers group, which represents care homes, told the ‘Journal’ that “care homes can charge an additional amount of money, commonly referred to as a top up, however, again this has to be agreed between the care home and the Health Trusts and the top up may increase each year based on the percentage uplift awarded to the general tariff”.

The HSCB said the requirement for a top up payments in the first place generally arose from the selection of more expensive than average accomodation.

“In line with Departmental (DoH) guidance, where a client selects accommodation which is more expensive than other appropriate accommodation which the HSC Trust can secure at a lower rate a third party top-up will apply,” a spokesperson explained.

In relation to Mrs. Kelley’s belief that lesser fees apply across the water, the HSCB said: “The £25 is a third party top up fee and there is a similar system in England, Scotland and Wales.

“Different countries may calculate their regional rates differently, e.g. our rates are for (i) older people, mental health and learning disability and (ii) physical and sensory disability. We have not taken the view here that an additional rate should be paid for dementia.”