The organisation is calling for Government to focus efforts on long term solutions for older people, and a stronger presence from the Minister for Mental Health and Older People, as Ireland enters next phase of the pandemic
Dublin, 4 May 2020: ALONE, the organisation which supports older people, has urged Government and politicians to focus anew on the long term issues impacting older people during the COVID-19 pandemic as the country enters the next phase of combatting the virus. The organisation is calling for action on the long-term issues impacting older people which COVID-19 has further brought to light, such as mental health and wellbeing, support to age at home, and nursing home support.
ALONE believes that as well as tackling the immediate issues posed by COVID-19, the Government must take into consideration the long-term detrimental effect that cocooning is having on the physical and mental health of older people. Last week the organisation released concerning figures relating to older people’s mental health as a result of the pandemic, with increases in calls from older people expressing suicidal ideation. ALONE has noted that the long-term physical health and wellbeing of older people is also being affected, with cocooning measures preventing older people living in the community from staying active, accessing home support and attending medical appointments.
The organisation has called for long-term strategies to respond to these challenges and called attention to the lack of commitment to the needs of older people in the policy framework released by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, and the Green Party’s response. ALONE believe that any Government formation document must include commitments to the right to home care, Sláintecare and the National Positive Ageing Strategy.
ALONE CEO Seán Moynihan stated “The issues raised by COVID-19 will have a long term impact on the health and wellbeing of older people in Ireland and these will not go away once the restrictions have ended. With this new phase, we need to ensure that the Minister for Mental Health and Older People has a strong voice in designing and influencing policy. The lack of reference to older people in recent Government formation documents is a cause of huge concern for us. Older people have struggled the most with the outbreak of COVID-19 and it should follow that they are supported to deal with it in its aftermath.”
ALONE has hugely expanded their services since the outbreak of COVID-19 in Ireland to meet the needs of older people nationwide, and is running a national helpline for older people in collaboration with the Department of Health, the HSE, and Local Authorities. Since it launched in March, ALONE’s national helpline for older people has received over 17,600 calls. In addition to this, ALONE staff and volunteers have made 55,088 calls to older people who needed support. More than 76% of the older people who called the ALONE helpline in the last week are living alone.
Moynihan continued, “The majority of older people have been adhering to cocooning advice for the past four weeks, and this has proven incredibly challenging. We welcome updated Government guidelines which advise that older people go outside within 5km of their home for exercise and we expect this will make a big difference for many, particularly the increasing numbers of older people who have struggled with their mental wellbeing in recent weeks.
“However, we all must recognise the sacrifices that older people have made and continue to make throughout this crisis. We need to see commitments to support older people long-term as well as in the immediate future. A national strategy to combat loneliness, the delivery of Housing with Support to enable older people to live in their communities for longer, and the implementation and funding of a statutory home care scheme are just some of the actions we need to discuss now, and which need to be part of the next Programme for Government.”
ALONE is encouraging older people who need advice or support to call their support line, 0818 222 024 from 8am-8pm, seven days a week. The support line, which is running in collaboration with the Department of Health and the HSE, is available to all older people including those who have not used ALONE’s services previously. The support line is designed to complement the clinical advice and information being provided by the HSE through its website and helpline.
Contact ALONE on 0818 222 024 if you have concerns about your own wellbeing, or the wellbeing of an older person you know. Further information can be found on www.alone.ie.