‘I’m still fighting for my Joe’

Mr. Joe Toland.  who suffers from advanced Alzheimer's, pictured with wife, Margaret and the couple's young grandson.
Mr. Joe Toland. who suffers from advanced Alzheimer's, pictured with wife, Margaret and the couple's young grandson.

The wife of a dementia patient who faces being moved to a nursing home more than a hour from Derry said she is upping the fight to have her husband of 42 years cared for closer to home.

Margaret Toland, a Special needs teacher at Ardnashee College, has said she will give up her job if need be, to ensure she is not separated from her “husband and best-friend”.

Yesterday she was undergoing the first of a number of carer assessments to see if the Toland family home could accommodate her ailing husband, who has been an inpatient at Waterside Hospital for the last eight months.

Last week Margaret was told her husband, who has advanced Alzheimer’s, would be moved yesterday to Slieve Na Mon nursing home outside Omagh.

However, at lunchtime yesterday, she had not been told whether or not the move would go ahead.

“I hope it won’t,” she said, “but no one has communicated with me what is happening.”

Since Margaret’s story was highlighted in the ‘Journal’ on Friday she has been inundated with support.

“People have been amazing - the response and support of people has been really overwhelming and I can’t thank people enough.

“I’m still fighting for Joe, but I’m fighting for all the other people who find themselves in this position as well.”

Sinn Fein Health spokesperson, Maeve McLaughlin, MLA said she would be bringing Joe’s case to the attention of the Health Minister, Simon Hamilton.

She said the care of our elderly must be prioritised within the health service.

A spokesperson for Patient First NI, a charitable organisation campaigning on behalf of patients and their families contacted the ‘Journal’ to say: “We should not be a society that puts patients in a nursing homes when their families have concerns about the safety and wellbeing of their loved ones.

“The relationship between a husband and wife should be afforded the right to continue no matter if one or the other has to be given nursing care in a nursing home. A husband and wife should be given the opportunity to spend as much time with each other as possible when one or other is being cared for in a nursing home.

“The transition to nursing home care should be as smooth and stress free as possible. Nobody should ever feel the need to give up their career or vocation so that they can visit their loved one because of the travel distance.”

The organisation has also contacted Margaret privately.