The country's only dedicated respite centre for people living with multiple sclerosis (MS) may have to reduce its opening hours, due to a lack of funding.
The National MS Care Centre is run by the MS Society of Ireland (MS Ireland) and is located in Rathfarnham in Dublin. It is a 12-bed state-of-the-art facility, which welcomes over 400 people from all over the country annually.
It provides people living with MS and their caregivers a break, but it also delivers a range of therapeutic services, neurological assessments and social activities, such as yoga and art classes. Residents also go on day trips and engage with other members of the MS community.
The centre is currently only able to open for 40 weeks of the year, however it has warned that a continued lack of funding could lead to a further reduction in the number of weeks it can operate.
Originally when it opened, it operated for 50 weeks of the year. However, a lack of funding and resources led to this being cut back to 40 weeks.
The centre has warned that without additional funds, it now faces the prospect of a further reduction of operating weeks, "leaving our 12 Care Centre beds lying idle for more weeks of the year".
It is calling on members of the public to support its campaign to keep the National Care Centre open.
"Our Care Centre provides a modern state-of the-art respite service, which focuses not just on providing a break for people living with MS and their caregivers, but delivers a range of therapeutic services, neurological assessments and many social activities, all designed to revitalise and rejuvenate.
"We need to be open to keep offering this incredible resource, and ensure that residents can feel valued, recognised, and empowered to live the life of their choosing. We are asking members of the public to get behind our campaign and keep the Care Centre open," commented MS Ireland CEO, Ava Battles.
Karen Hynes from Dublin has lived with MS for over 20 years and has been a regular resident at the centre over the last few years. She describes it as her "saving grace".
I'm going there the last six or eight years. There I can get together with people who are like-minded, who are in the same headspace, who understand my symptoms, embarrassing or otherwise.
"I'm secondary progressive now so it's a bit harder to deal with. The fatigue is worse and I'm affected cognitively a bit more. So my time at the centre is invaluable. It is my home from home and if the centre wasn't there, I wouldn't know what I would do to be honest," she said.
MS is a chronic disease of the central nervous system, which causes a gradual degeneration of the nerves. This results in a progressive deterioration in various functions controlled by the nervous system, such as vision, speech and movement.
It is usually diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 40 and is the most common debilitating neurological condition affecting young adults in Ireland. Around 9,000 people are affected here.
MS Ireland needs to raise €600,000 to keep the centre open for longer. For more information on the campaign to keep it open, click here.
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