​Statement on the Expert Panel Report on COVID-19 and Nursing Homes

19 August 2020

Dr Diarmuid O’Shea, President of the Irish Gerontological Society and consultant physician in geriatric medicine at St. Vincent’s University Hospital, Dublin.

The Irish Gerontological Society (IGS) is an all-Ireland interdisciplinary professional organisation which enables research, education and practice in the field of ageing.

Members of the IGS stem from the whole of Ireland, representing professions and disciplines involved in areas such as medicine, nursing, health and social care, policy, economics, the social and built environments and technology.


I welcome the focus this review, which you can download below, brings on improving care of people with complex care needs, whether they live at home, in supported living or nursing homes.  We must remember that age is just a number, older people are a broad heterogeneous group ranging from very fit to frail, and a one-size solution does not fit all. 

In many respects, the true “front-line” of the COVID-19 pandemic occurred in our nursing homes, with almost one-thousand deaths and many other staff and residents becoming severely unwell. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed many of the pre-existing vulnerabilities in the existing model of long-term care delivery for frail older people in Ireland. It has brought a much-needed focus on how regulators, health care providers, politicians, and society at large must work together to ensure best care and support for those who need it most, whether that is in their own homes or if they are being cared for in a nursing care facility. 

This report makes some crucial observations on key factors which contributed to the significant impact of the pandemic on those living in nursing homes and essential recommendations to address these factors. Actions speak louder than words, and given that we’re going to be living with this viral pandemic for some time to come, these recommendations must be supported and followed through on urgently.     

We must use the lessons learnt during the first phase of this pandemic as an opportunity to provide a cohesive service for older people and enable them age well, safely and with dignity where they are living.  We must reflect as a society on the current care model for frail older people, which often defaults prematurely towards the necessity for older people to move from their home to congregated residential care settings as the get frailer. This happens largely as a result of limited community resources and alternative supported-living solutions for older people as they age, and this is neither acceptable, successful nor sustainable for our current and future older citizens. 

If this review and the recommendations contribute to / ensure the support and care systems we put in place for those with complex care needs is integrated into our current and future health and social care models it will have made a major contribution.  People providing the care to those with complex needs must have access to the right training, education, equipment, advice and support to continue improving the care they provide older people with complex care needs.

From our government and Minister of Health, we must now see concrete support and funding for the recommendations in this report to enhance and protect the lives of people currently living in residential care settings, and a commitment to future generations for investment in better care options than the current status quo. 

Ends.

Dr O’Shea is available for media interviews

For further information please contact:

Miriam Ahern

Director of Partnerships and Philanthropy, Irish Gerontological Society.

E: Miriam.ahern@irishgerontology.com   M: 086 804 4595