Thursday, 29 April 2021
Covid-19, Mental Health and Older People: Statements
I acknowledge the Minister of State’s hard work and sincerity in addressing her many responsibilities, with more being added by the unprecedented event of the pandemic. I wish to raise a number of issues and would be grateful for any consideration that the Minister of State can give to these issues.
All of us here know and accept that the entire Covid-19 experience has been traumatic and disproportionately burdensome for our older people. Last year, Dr. Martin Feeley, former clinical director of the Dublin Midlands Hospital Group, which includes the hospitals in Portlaoise and Tullamore, described many of the Covid-19 measures around the elderly as draconian. Professor Ronan Collins, the director of stroke services in Tallaght University Hospital, has also previously called for pubs to be reopened as they are a lifeline for many elderly people in rural communities. Professor Collins also said that cocooning was a mistake that left many older people feeling like life was not worth living any longer. I am also aware that researchers at the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing in Trinity College Dublin are analysing the Covid-19 outbreak and subsequent measures to flatten the curve and how these measures have impacted on adults over 50 years of age in Ireland. I am further aware that the analysis of confirmed deaths by the Central Statistics Office shows that Covid-19 has the greatest impact on people aged 65 years of age or over. This age group accounted for almost 92% of confirmed deaths between 11 March and 15 May 2020. People aged 70 years of age and over were directed to stay indoors, curtail social visits from friends and family and to halt outdoor exercise, activities that shape everyday routine and indeed their quality of life. Ageist terminology was sometimes employed by the media and others.
There is also the issue of ongoing restrictions around physical access to Mass which I hope will be eased and that we will hear announcements to that effect. The sacraments are extremely important for many older people in particular.
Older people are one of the most responsible groups in our society. They respect the law but has the law respected them?
My last question relates to the fair deal scheme. Will we have the fair deal reforms in place before the summer recess or will it be in the autumn?