A 42-YEAR-OLD man with MS spoke of how a lack of care facility options has forced him to undergo respite with people more than twice his age in nursing home-type settings.
Dan Collins from Drimoleague avails of a number of stints in respite every year due to the exhausting effects of his multiple sclerosis. He said the only options available to him are nursing homes or respite centres where the majority of clients are significantly older.
Dan, who lives in Jacob’s Island, acknowledged that his great rapport with staff gets him through each day. However, he fears the potential impact on one’s self-esteem may be what is deterring other MS sufferers from utilising respite services.
“Sometimes it can feel isolating when a nurse wheels you down to a canteen where you find yourself alone,” he said. Fellow service users are often taken aback at Dan’s age.
“I’m always referred to as ‘the young guy’,” he says. “Some of the residents I was having dinner with were even insisting on giving me their food saying that I was ‘a big man and could do with the protein’.”
Dan said visitors often have to take a second glance when they see him among the crowd of elderly faces.
“I’m sure there are some people wondering what anti-ageing lotion I’m using or how I maintain my looks,” he said.
He said other MS sufferers may find respite care demoralising. “It’s a strange situation to be in. In a very delicate situation like this it would be nice to have someone to talk to but you’re not going to have much in common with people from a different generation. In that respect it’s strange.
“ I’m a self-assured person but that may not be the case for a lot of other MS sufferers. My condition started years ago which means I’ve had a lot of time to accept and come to terms with my diagnosis. I have a WhatsApp group of people who inform me when they are passing the centre so there is always a steady stream of visitors. However, not everyone has that. When you are put in a place where people are twice your age it can be hard to feel normal.”
The nature of Dan’s condition can make socialising and staying active a struggle. He said he would welcome a respite facility for younger people or failing that a special unit in existing centres.
“If there was a facility for people of a younger age bracket I wouldn’t feel like a sore thumb,” he said.