"No easy answers" after care home battle forces elderly couple to separate


A local authority has forced an elderly couple to live apart after a battle over care funding.

Nursing Home Fees Elderly

Joseph Graham and his wife Florence, who have been married for 65 years, have been told by Sunderland City Council that they cannot live in the same care home, despite Mrs Graham suffering from dementia.

Her condition worsened earlier this year and the couple moved to sheltered accommodation, where Mr Graham looked after his wife until he himself recently fell ill.

Diagnosed with prostate cancer and also suffering from diabetes, Mr Graham, 92, was placed in St Mark's Nursing Home in Millfield. Although Sunderland City Council gave him a twin room, the social services department has refused to provide the funding for Mrs Graham to move into the home with him.

The couple's son and 3 daughters are caring for Mrs Graham, saying the 90 year-old cannot be left alone for her own safety.

Their daughter Eileen Robson, 55, said: "It is so heartbreaking, because they have never been apart."

The couple's son Paul Graham, 59, said social services has offered to send carers to visit his mother at home 4 times daily for essentials such as washing, dressing and meals.

However, noting the potential expense, he asked: "Why can't they use that money to pay towards the nursing home costs? As a family we would be willing to try to meet some of the costs."

Cllr Graeme Miller, for Health, Housing and Adult Services at Sunderland City Council, insisted that the Grahams had the support of the council at a difficult time.

"We fully understand why Mr and Mrs Graham wish to be together, and we always try to help people stay together in their own homes for as long as possible," Cllr Miller said.

"At the same time we have a responsibility to ensure that we do everything we can to maintain Mrs Graham's independence and to avoid her needing permanent care while she is able to live at home with support, and also be helped to spend time during the day with her husband."

Age UK Sunderland said that the charity generally supported the council's position. "It does happen from time to time and is always very sad," said the charity's director, Alan Patchett. "It is a really difficult situation for all concerned."

"It's been policy in Sunderland for a long time, which we do support, because that is generally what older people want. They want to live independently and they want to live at home, but they don't want to go into care."

"I don't think there are any easy answers to this situation."

Head of Care/Nursing Home Fees Recovery said: "This is yet another example of how badly elderly people are treated. This is a generation who have worked very hard and it is a real shame individual situations are not dealt with the appropriate sensitivity. Older people have rights; unfortunately, most of them are not able to articulate their needs. "

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