Tuesday 26 March 2019

Granddad's plea for respite after autistic teen spends a week in ED

Gerard Tracey spent a week at his grandson’s bedside in the ED as Sean had nowhere to go
Gerard Tracey spent a week at his grandson’s bedside in the ED as Sean had nowhere to go

A devoted grandfather and his grandson, who has autism, had to spend the week in Tallaght Hospital's emergency department (ED) in a desperate bid to secure respite care for the teenager.

Gerard Tracey, from Clondalkin, and grandson Sean (16) had been in an adult cubicle with no natural light in the busy ED since Monday.

Sean had become extremely disturbed at home and his mother, Eva, was unable to cope with his behavioural distress.

"We would love to keep him at home but we are not equipped to look after him," said Mr Tracey, who has been by the youngster's bedside throughout.

"He is a lovely lad and needs to be in a safe environment with staff who are trained to look after him."

Mr Tracey refused to bring Gerard home as frantic efforts were made over days to secure a respite place for him.

The pair had to endure the noise and chaos of the ED as well as drunken patients "shouting and roaring".

After prolonged representations to Children's Minister Katherine Zappone, who is the local TD, Sean will now get two weeks' respite care in a Port- laoise facility. However, his family say it is essential he gets more long-term care.

During his stay at the ED there was no stimulation for the teenager and his only respite was a fidget spinner.

The family's plight comes as there is a dire shortage of respite places for people with a disability across the country, leaving their carers distraught and under unrelenting stress.

"Sean used to get one night's respite every couple of weeks but it was not a given," Mr Tracey said.

"Three weeks ago we brought him to the A&E in St James's Hospital and before we left were promised respite appointments, but nothing happened."


He praised the staff in the Tallaght ED and was particularly grateful for the kindness of consultant Dr James Gray, who helped them through their ordeal.

Last year, only 158,296 respite nights were provided to people with disabilities in approved centres - a 10pc cut from 2016.

The HSE said it is investing €10m in resourcing new residential respite and alternative respite services for people with disabilities, and their families and carers. This should eventually provide 42,500 day places and 182,500 overnights.

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