Disabled dumped in rest homes
MAARTEN HOLL/Dominion Post
Just a year ago, the Wairarapa mum lived with her husband and two young boys. But as her multiple sclerosis worsened and her marriage deteriorated, she says she was left with nowhere to go.
"It's like being imprisoned. This is not my home."
They are blaming a lack of support and accommodation for the disabled, which leaves families to make the difficult choice between muddling along with limited support or stick their loved ones in a rest home before their time.
But the Ministry of Health says there are fewer, not more, young disabled people in aged care homes, and a greater focus on providing support at home.
She is now wheelchair-bound, requires assistance to get out of bed, and is slowing losing dexterity in her hands.
In July last year, she developed pressure sores on her back that could not be treated at her remote home, and was forced to move into the Glenwood Masonic Hospital nursing home in Masterton.
She thought it was a short-term fix but, nine months later, with nowhere else in the area to provide care, she has been told it is now her home for the foreseeable future.
"I don't like being here, it's not the place for me. But at the moment I'm stuck."
She is half the age of most of the other residents, and she is often embarrassed during the too-infrequent visits from her children by "wailing" from the lounge across the hall.
"We are worlds apart. They have grandchildren, I have young children."
CCS Disability Action acting chief executive Joy Gunn said McIntyre's circumstances were too common. She was aware of cases of people in their 20s and 30s.
"That is clearly not ideal."
The problem arose because there was not enough accommodation that could cater for disabled people, or enough carers who could support them to live at home with their families.
As the population of disabled people increases and, with the help of improved medical care, they live longer, the gap would only get wider, she said.
"The disabled picture is changing and we don't have the accessible housing to meet that need."
The Ministry of Health funds 448 disabled people under 65 to live in aged care homes, but was not able to break those figures down to cover younger age groups.
Associate Health Minister Sam Lotu-Iigadeclined to comment on the issue. A spokeswoman called it an "operational" matter.
Ministry disability support services manager Toni Atkinson said there had been a big push to reduce the number of young people in aged care homes, but "acknowledged that, to continue this reduction, more needs to be done".
This had included opening new disability-focused accommodation services and diverting more young people away from aged care homes. As a result, the number of disabled people under 65 in aged care had dropped in the past five years, she said.
"The ministry recognises that young people entering aged residential care is the option of last resort where all other age-appropriate community-based options have been exhausted."
Glenwood Masonic Hospital manager Danielle Farmer did not want to comment of McIntyre's case. However, she said the hospital was contracted to provide four beds for people under 65.
"It enables people to stay in their own area, rather than going out to another community."
Ideally, McIntyre wants to live in her own home close to her children but, as she requires 24-hour care, she cannot receive adequate funding.
"What gets me through is just thinking about my children," she said.
"I want not to have them embarrassed about coming to see their mother in an aged care facility."