Statement to Government from The Alliance of Age Sector NGOs

The Alliance of Age Sector NGOs wish to acknowledge the care being given to our nursing home residents during the Covid-19 pandemic, and to call for equal access to appropriate treatment options for all older people guided by the principles within the Ethical Framework for Decision-Making in a Pandemic (Department of Health 2020).

Age alone should never be a barrier to realising one’s right to health.  In its position adopted on 3rd April 2020, Alzheimer Europe considers it unacceptable to systematically restrict access to ventilators during the COVID-19 pandemic to people living with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia, or people living in nursing homes.

The principle of fairness ensures that equity and appropriate clinical responses are of the highest standards and will apply to people of all ages including our older citizens during this crisis (Ethical Framework for Decision-Making in a Pandemic (Department of Health 2020)).

This is crucial given that the World Health Organisation has identified long term residential care setting residents as being particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, and over 65s have accounted for 90% of COVID-19 deaths recorded in Ireland to date.

We would like to make the following points to Government:

  1. Nursing home staff are experts in providing end-of-life-care and have always supported residents to live and die well.  Such staff are competent, compassionate and caring professionals, and we call for all necessary resources to be available to support them during this crisis. This includes adequate staffing, personal protective equipment, (PPE) and all other resources necessary to give the care that staff consider necessary to deliver quality care to vulnerable people at this time. 
  2. It is important to uphold the  principles of advanced care and end of life planning which place the wishes and preferences of each resident at the centre of the care and treatment provided. E.g. A resident wishing to be transferred to an acute hospital for further treatment should be facilitated in this.  Equally, ‘Do Not Attempt Resuscitation’ (DNAR) or ‘Do not Transfer’ should not be applied to entire care settings
  3. Each person who does test positive and requires treatment should be assessed individually and appropriate treatment options provided, based on their wishes and in line with clinically appropriate medical interventions. 
  4. It is most distressing to read the reports of older people in hospitals and nursing homes dying without family members present because of Covid-19.  We thank our hospital and nursing home staff who do their best to offer care and comfort to these patients, and we remain open to exploring any innovative and creative ideas that could provide some solutions to such separation at this time.

As an inclusive society, it is incumbent on us to ensure that the rights of our older people are protected, and we are calling on Government to review this as a matter of urgency.

The Alliance of Age Sector NGOs

Signed by:

Maureen Kavanagh, CEO of Active Retirement Ireland

Patrick Connolly, CEO of Age Action

Karen Horgan, CEO of Age & Opportunity

Sean Moynihan, CEO of ALONE

Pat McLoughlin, CEO of The Alzheimer Society of Ireland

Mairead Hayes, CEO of Senior Citizens Parliament

Aine Brady, CEO of Third Age

Sharon Foley, CEO of The Irish Hospice Foundation