The proposed 22-bed unit for Alzheimer disease patients - to be built on HSE land at Merlin Park - will be granted a 25 year lease with an option to renew, it was confirmed this week.
Moving to clear up confusion over the term of the lease, the chairperson of the HSE West’s regional health forum, Cllr Padraig Conneely stressed it was not for 10 years as widely reported but 25.
“The HSE donated the site for the unit at Merlin Park to Western Alzheimer’s five years ago. It has been confirmed to me that it is a 25 year lease. The site was given to the Alzheimer organisation free for 25 years, the lease to be renewed if it so wishes.
“Planning permission has been obtained for the €3 million 22-bed unit (Western Alzheimers has collected €600,000 towards the cost ). The HSE has given what it was requested - a site at Merlin Park. There has been no hold up as regards the HSE or the land. I am anxious to put an end to the confusion over the lease and to reassure people that everything is ready to begin as regards the unit.”
Cllr Conneely says he was inundated with enquiries from people concerned about the unit, which will provide respite, daycare and long stay facilities, and angry over what they erroneously believed was a much shorter lease term.
“I have been in touch with the HSE and it has confirmed to me on more than one occasion that the lease is for 25 years. I am anxious to put any rumours or confusion over this issued - to bed.”
Meanwhile Cllr Terry O’Flaherty says since planning permission was granted demand for this service has increased “substantially”.
“I am quite sure that at this point in time a 22-bed unit is not sufficient to cater for the needs of the hundreds of families and their loved ones.
“Caring for a person with Alzheimer’s can be very stressful on the carer and the fact that this facility is providing both day and respite care will help greatly for those that require this service. Therefore it is imperative that there should be no delays in providing this much needed and long overdue facility.”
Western Alzheimer’s helps 316 families in Galway, Mayo and Roscommon, 120 in Galway benefit from its home care service.
The organisation, which celebrated 21 years in operation this year, says the demand for its service is growing steadily, said its chief executive John Grant.
“We are helping one or two families in every parish. By sending one of our people into people’s homes for four to six hours per week we are enabling the primary carer to have a break, to relax. With cutbacks in the HSE more people are coming to us, this year more than ever. However, with the downturn in the economy charities are finding it harder to raise money. We are fortunate in that people are very conscious of our organisation and are aware of how we are helping the community.”
The charity, which has 166 people working for it in Galway, Mayo and Roscommon - 97 of whom it pays directly each week - set up the first purpose built respite home in the west in Ballindine, Co Mayo, in 1999 catering solely for Alzheimer patients. Almost 40 per cent of the clients of Marian House - which provides short term residential care - are from Co Galway. Maryfield Nursing Home in Athenry, a 22 bed unit, was bought by Western Alzheimer’s in 2001 to meet the growing demand for long term and respite care in Galway.
More than 5,000 people in the west have Alzheimer’s disease, 2,000 of whom live in Galway, according to Mr Grant. While the majority would be in their 70s a growing number are in their late 50s or early 60s. The youngest patient is in his late 40s but it is rare for somebody this young to be affected by the disease, he said.
“When I started giving talks originally about our projects there were 4,000 people with the condition,” he explained in an interview with this newspaper earlier this year. “There are definitely more people getting it because our population is ageing. When we started [our service] 95 per cent of our clients were women, now we see a very noticeably growing number of men. There is no cure for the condition. Carers are looking at a person they may have lived with all their life who is now forgetting a little each day. They may have spent 40 or 50 years with them and now their parent does now know them. They end up caring for their every need.”
In addition to sharing the physical care of people with Alzheimer’s the charity provides emotional support for carers. “We are constantly in touch to provide ongoing support. We are here to listen and help.”
Western Alzheimer’s can be contacted at (091 ) 565193. Its head office is based in Ballindine, Co Mayo. Telephone (094 ) 9364900.