herald

Monday 5 December 2016

Dementia patient has his benefits cut because brother is home to help

Colm with brother James (Photo: North West Newspix)
Colm with brother James (Photo: North West Newspix)

Welfare payments have been cut to an 84-year-old dementia patient because his brother has returned from America to help him.

James Friel, from Termon in Co Donegal, has had €111 per month taken off him since brother Colm returned from Philadelphia to care for him last year.

James, who is confined to bed and unable to move without help, had his Living Alone allowance and fuel payments stopped because Colm refused to disclose the income from his own pension, he said last night.

Taxes

The caring brother's only respite is three 30-minute visits from a home help every week.

"I don't know what has become of our country," said Colm, who emigrated to the USA as a 16-year-old in 1959.

"I never paid taxes to this State, but I've never asked for anything either. James worked all his life and paid his taxes here. He gave up his job to care for our mother in the last 10 years of her life, because she had Alzheimer's, but he continued to work the farm here.

"I'm just at the end of my tether, because we're struggling to make ends meet."

He said he was forced to use his pension from the American oil company where he worked to keep them warm.

"They (Social Welfare) asked what my income was from my pension, and I told them it was none of their business," added Colm.

"This is not about me. This is about James. We had the worst summer here last year and I have heating going 24 hours a day - I have to keep him warm.

"I'm here most of the time. I never get away for more than an hour at a time, and that's life. But as far as I'm concerned, I'm saving this country of ours hundreds of euro every week.

"If I wasn't here, James would have to be cared for in a nursing home, but I don't want that and neither does he - he wouldn't last a week if he had to leave our home. I want to care for him here."

James has lost his Living Alone allowance of €7.70 a week, plus his €20 Winter Fuel Payments. Colm was denied Carers' Allowance.

"James depends entirely on me, financially and every other way. I cannot believe our country has come to this," Colm said.

Donegal TD Padraig Mac Lochlainn says he will raise the Friel case in the Dail, insisting: "The health and social care system is failing to adequately support people with dementia and their carers where they need it most, in their own homes and communities."

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