Building a Better Health Service


Kerry service keeps older people safely in own homes

Maureen Culhane

Maureen Culhane

A new HSE community-led service in Tralee is helping older people remain safely in their own homes for as long as possible.

The Kerry Integrated Care Programme for Older Persons (Kerry ICPOP) hub in Balloonagh, Tralee is helping to shift care for some older people away from acute hospitals towards care in the community that is planned and co-ordinated. As an added extra, the team there also do a great cup of tea.

 Supporting older people to live well 

Care at the McAuley unit in Balloonagh is provided by a team of healthcare professionals (physiotherapist, occupational therapists, speech and language therapists, dietitians, healthcare assistants and specialist nurses). The entire team works together from one hub, under the clinical governance of a Consultant Geriatrician. Focusing on clients who have issues with frailty, falls and memory or dementia, the team work closely with other parts of the health service to support older people to live well in their own homes for as long as possible.

And they also do a great cup of tea, according to Mairin Cullhane, who became a patient at the hub after a fall at home left her with a broken hip. The ICPOP (Integrated Care Programme for Older Persons) team supported her to return to her own home as quickly as possible - and far faster than she thought possible.   “It meant everything. I was at home, and I was able to say what I wanted. Life was happier,” Mairin explained.

And the tea was plentiful, and made just right, with Mairin declaring: “We were offered it, we didn’t have to ask for it – and it was lovely.”

It may sound like a small touch, but it explains everything about the welcome which older people receive from the moment they are referred to the ICPOP team.  Simple things like a cup of tea and the warm welcome that goes with it make a healthcare appointment that could be stressful for people run smoothly.

From the moment a member of the team picks up the phone or meets someone at the front door, everyone is guaranteed a warm and reassuring welcome.  Situated in a calm spacious environment there’s plenty of space for the team to carry out their work   - a true one-stop shop.   The physiotherapy gym is the location for transfer, mobility and functional assessments and also the prescription of bespoke exercise programmes.

In a therapy kitchen, occupational therapist Emma explained she uses the facility to assess how an older person carries out the activities of daily living – including making the ever important cup of tea! The use of low tech equipment is often recommended to make life easier and support independent living.

 “We were made feel important"

Communication and swallowing issues are assessed as well as some dietary advice from the experienced team.   Patient medication is optimised and diagnostics ordered by the consultant geriatrician and the team of Registrars.   Pat Cullane, Mairin’s husband describes the key to the team’s success: “We were made feel important, we were made feel part of the system, everything was explained to us,” he said, adding:

“The confidence they instilled in us was great, and we’d recommend it to people. We were apprehensive at the start, but it exceeded all our expectations.”


Watch the team: