Dynamo Irish broadcaster Teena Gates vows to fight for dementia care packages
Siobhan O'Connor's Women on Top: When her beloved father – former builder and publican Terry Martin – fell and developed dementia at 93, Teena’s world fell apart
And now she’s climbing mountains to access HSE care packages to help bring our elderly home.Ireland’s much-loved newscaster has worked in RTE, Today FM, Newstalk and 98FM and now she’s campaigning to help hundreds of desperate families.When her beloved father – former builder and publican Terry Martin – fell and developed dementia at 93, Teena’s world fell apart.
She told Women On Top: “I couldn’t save him – he hit the deck, hit the road, he was unconscious. We were told it would be two hours before anyone could reach him.“We were lucky enough a passing paramedic peeled him up – I drove him myself to accident and emergency in Connolly Hospital.
“Then all the fighting began. We had him in hospital, then discharged even though he had a broken eye socket and a bleed on the brain and a traumatised hand.“Two days later he was delirious and moved back into hospital.“He was there for two months in Woodlands, James Connolly, and they were fantastic, but I was advised not to take him home without an HSE care package.
“His diagnosis was that he acquired a brain injury and vascular dementia and would require 24-hour care.”Teena told how she battled to have her father home for his 94th birthday but the facility was reluctant to release him.She added: “I promised him I would have him home for it.
“The log jam was the hospital didn’t want to leave him in my care as he was too much for one person to look after for 24 hours – he’s a falls risk. We qualified for the care package but there wasn’t one available – we were stuck.“I was being encouraged by all sides to put him into a nursing home. Dad’s been living with me for years – we discussed all options and it’s the last resort.
“Even in hospital I was watching his will for life drain away.“I was told if I left the hospital with him and went against medical advice he would drop down the HSE list. As a journalist for 17 years I did the one thing that was second nature to me – I started writing about what had happened.
“I wrote a post on Facebook on my fervent desire to get my dad back home and it turned into an open letter to the minister.“He paid taxes all his life – I hashtagged it ‘bring him home’ and it went viral overnight. When you have over a thousand shares by breakfast you’ve struck a nerve.
“It didn’t start as a campaign but then I knew this is what I had on my hands.My dad got his care package four days after I started campaigning but there are hundreds of others who don’t have theirs – I couldn’t leave others behind so I’m on my journey with #bringthemhome.
“These people supported me in my darkest hour, if it weren’t for them we wouldn’t have got our package.“I’ve done the pre-budget submission for the Alzheimer’s Society of Ireland."I was a part of their pre-budget submission to Government looking for dementia support. I’m campaigning to bring the hundreds of people trapped in hospitals who are good enough to come home and who have families who are passionately willing to look after them – all these families need is three hours a day.
“They’re using #Dementiasupport to help #bringthemhome.”The broadcaster, 54, also opened up on life at home.She said: “Dad gets three hours’ assistance a day, I’m with dad 24 hours a day other than the time Home Instead step in – they’re incredible. I couldn’t have survived on the carers allowance. You’re only allowed work 15 hours, which is less than two shifts on air – it’s a struggle.
“That home care package is the difference between success and failure.“The 24-hour care means you don’t get to sleep, you don’t go to the bathroom, you don’t get a shower because dad could fall.“I have an alarm on the stairs, I’ve an alarm on his bed and our dog sleeps with dad.
“Our amazing German Shepherd Google Dog runs up the stairs to wake me if dad has a problem.“I’ve covered every inch of concrete in the garden with foam, it’s very much like having a baby-stroke-teenager, stroke-toddler.“Part of dementia is this kind of energy and anxiety – he’ll start a task and forget to follow through, he’ll put on his pyjamas and forget half way and fall flat on his face.
“But the joy is immense. I’ve taken dad on a cruise, we went all along the Bay of Biscay, to Portugal and Spain, we enjoyed every second together. I’m building memories.”And brave Teena is fighting tirelessly to end elderly discrimination.She added: “I’m not a politician and never hope to be one but I’m trying to put a face on these numbers through my blog and the campaign.
“We listen to problems about older people being discriminated against and it’s just anonymous people. They’re not getting support.“My dad was costing the State thousands while he was in hospital, but our Care Package is roughly in the region of €500 a week.
“Our hospitals are over-subscribed. We have this horrible expression of bed blockers, people who can’t be released into the community as there’s no place for them to go.“It overloads the hospitals and prevents people getting in.“Recently we’ve heard nursing homes also have a backlog.
“Why can’t we focus on retirement villages where people can live independently as long as they can?“At one point we were staring at the abyss – I don’t know what we would have done without the care package.“It’s the difference between surviving and not.”
Teena, who wrote the book One Foot In Front Of The Other, also opened up on her obesity battle.She said: “I lost 13 stone between 2009 and 2010. I went to Everest Base Camp and climbed the world’s highest mountains including Kilimanjaro.“I was running triathlons, swimming the Liffey – I think I have an issue with food and it becomes my comfort when things go rubbish.
“When dad’s health started to wane I ate my way into comforting myself and between 2016 and 2019, I put on six stone and ballooned back into being morbidly obese.“It was only before his fall I got a grip on myself thinking if I’m going to look after him I’m going to have to look after me and so I went on a diet.
“I’ve lost five stone since January – I’m on the journey again.”How to follow the Irish Mirror on social media You can like our main Facebook page here.Our Irish Mirror Sports page - which brings you all your Irish and UK sports news - can be found here.
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