An elderly Laois man has no choice but to stay alone in his pyjamas all day, because of a lack of home help support for him.
Portlaoise man Fintan Keegan is 88 years old and barely mobile. He has arthritis and has a colostomy bag and a walking frame. He never married and lives alone with no family around to help him.
"I had family but they are all dead. I've arthritis, my hands are not good. It's difficult to make a cup of tea," he said.
He normally gets a home helper for an hour in the morning and evening from the Health Service Executive's Home Support Services.
In the morning he is helped to shower and dress, and in the evening to get ready for bed.
However a limited HSE budget for the service means that holiday cover was not given when his morning carer took annual leave.
For the past two weeks, Mr Keegan is without any support until the evening.
"It's not good. I'm not able to dress myself, I get dizzy spells if I stoop down. I'm very upset about it. I got a kidney infection I was that worried. I had to get a taxi to MiDoc," he told the Leinster Express.
Mr Keegan said he had been asking for holiday cover before his carer went, at the local health centre.
"They told me they can do nothing. If I could talk to Minister Simon Harris, I would tell him what I thought of him. I wouldn't be happy with him. It's not good enough the way the HSE are treating old people. They want people to stay in their homes but they won't look after them. They used to be good when I got a home help first in 2015 but now they are just trying to save money," he said.
The pensioner says he wouldn't be able to afford a nursing home.
He is grateful for support he gets from volunteers in Meals on Wheels and Befriending Laois, whose volunteer brings him to the supermarket to buy readymade food that he can microwave. He said that a kind neighbour puts out his bin and gets his paper on a Tuesday, but that she was away on holidays too.
Mr Keegan is on his own at home most of the time.
"Only for the radio, I'd be worse. But they won't talk to you. No-one is listening any more," he said.
A similar situation was reported by the Leinster Express earlier this month, involving an 97 year old Laois granny living alone who is waiting for her promised home help cover. Read that story here.
Laois TD Brian Stanley has said that there is a lack of cover for home help staff on leave across Laois and Offaly.
“Elderly people have been left without cover for weeks. There is also an over reliance on private agency staff and this is more expensive than HSE directly employed staff. This impacts on the overall budget services. is time for the Government to improve home care services for the elderly people,” Dep Stanley said.
The HSE told the Leinster Express last week that home help numbers will increase later this autumn.
In July, it said that it delivered home support to 5,559 clients totalling 144,764 hours costing €3,886,953.
“These hours have since increased and will be available following the next Key Performance Indicators return mid September.
“Home Support Services is a non-statutory scheme, to support an Older Person living at home. Access to services is via assessment by HSE professionals. The quantity of services is limited to available budget,” a spokesperson said.
“Currently Midlands Louth Meath Community Healthcare Organisation are profiling our priority home support clients based on assessed needs and are working to provide services based on that priority profile,” the HSE said.
“The demand for home support continues to grow. The allocation of funding, though significant, is finite and services must be delivered within the funding available. This position will be kept under regular review,” the HSE said.