It is a long time since a TV documentary moved me to the extent that Prime Time Investigates did last night on RTÉ1. People the length and breadth of the country whose loved ones are suffering with Alzheimer’s disease told us their story. All of them had this in common: they all felt deflated and beaten, they were helpless and powerless against a state service that is supposed to help the most vulnerable in our so called society. That state service is the HSE, and you don’t get much more vulnerable than an 80 year old woman who is cared for 24 hours a day by her son’s family, who can’t do anything for herself, or an elderly man who just about remembers how to walk and eat. They all live in a muddled and mixed up world where very little makes sense. Surely in this day and age, in a developed country like Ireland, it is a basic human right to be cared for when we can no longer care for ourselves; for suffering families to be given proper advice and support, and the very least, a simple break. Surely, the taxes we pay throughout our lives must mean there is some cushion in our final years if things not in our control go out of control; for when families need help to do the most basic of things which take the most excruciating amounts of time and effort, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
But it appears this is far from a reality for the people interviewed for that TV program, and for the other 44,000 families who suffer with Alzheimer’s or related dementia in this country. We may be in a slump, and we all get that city and county council’s have no money. We get that, and the majority of us understand it. We all know that it will get better again. What I fail to understand however is how in God’s name we can prop up capitalism with the most obscene amounts of money, and unapologetically ignore our most in need. Eugene get’s two hours a week from the HSE to care for his mother, the same woman who would go hungry at Christmas so he could have Santa. He doesn’t want to put her in a home, and why should he? In his own incredibly touching words, “the least I owe her, is what I’m doing for her now”. Kate Arthurs, a young woman, felt she had no other choice but to abandon her own mother Rosemary in the A&E department in Mullingar in order to force the state to help.
What have we become? A nation that prefers profit over people. A nation that tolerates a decrepit health system that has proved itself inadequate time and time again, as it saves penny’s and spends pounds, and delivers us only a stack of statistics that is supposed to make us feel better. I don’t feel better, and neither should anyone else paying tax to a government who treats suits and boardrooms with more respect than the honest men and women who made this country what it is.
Let’s strip away all the threats of the IMF coming into Ireland, and of being banished to a cave far from the Eurozone party. Is trampling over our most defenseless people and losing all touch with reality really worth it? Our people is what make this country great. Our country just doesn’t understand this.
Last night, I was ashamed to be part it.