Care Is a Matter of Life or Death

CW: Abuse, Neglect, & Death

Cian Milligan, 17, was involved in a car accident that resulted in life-changing injuries. The teenager who lives in Castlewellan, a town in northern Ireland, now requires around-the-clock care. The family is having trouble finding caregivers. They initially had caregivers during the day and overnight. Cian’s father, Damian, says there are days when they have no help whatsoever.

In October 2020, Cian was on his way to school in Downpatrick when the car accident forever changed his life. The family lived in a rental home while their home in Castlewellan was modified to meet Cian’s needs.

The bathroom was remodeled to accommodate a bathing trolley and ceiling lift. The doorways were widened for Cian’s wheelchair, and a therapy table was purchased. However, the family has faced other challenges due to a lack of caregivers.

The Department of Health acknowledged the difficulty in providing care.

It stated that 2,780 persons were waiting for a domiciliary-care package as of January 2023. Additionally, 1,752 people were awaiting a portion of their evaluated domiciliary-care package.

Worldwide disabled people are struggling to find caregivers. In England, a woman named Anna told BBC last year that she showers once a week on her own without assistance from a PA. since she lacks the energy to do it more frequently. She had gone without a PA for three months when the article was published.

In Canada, inadequate home healthcare services have led some people to pursue MAiD or Medical Assistance in Dying. Jacques Comeau, who lives in Montreal, doesn’t know where to turn anymore. He is quadriplegic and uses a wheelchair. Last summer, his care regimen changed, and he says it has impacted his quality of life. His bowel program was done incorrectly, which caused pain and incontinence.

In the U.S., disabled people have died from a lack of care. Dennis Prothero of Minnesota had his legs amputated in October 2022 due to an infection. He fell ill due to a lack of PCAs. Prothero was in his wheelchair up to 24 hours a day. He lost most of his crucial caregiving support in 2021 due to a state-wide homecare shortage in Minnesota. The frequent friction with the chair led to painful pressure sores on his feet. Sadly, Dennis died in December due to pneumonia and COVID-19, which he contracted in the hospital.

I’ve experienced this shortage firsthand due to Cerebral Palsy. In my first three semesters of college, I had three different PCAs. The lack of dependable PCAs added to my stress. I didn’t want to be worried about getting to class on time or using the bathroom.

Sometimes my mother had to miss work to take me to college. I felt guilty. It wasn’t fair for my mom to miss work. Other times, a friend had to miss work. The more this happened, the worse I felt.

The shortage is an international crisis, and it needs to be fixed. People’s lives are at risk without proper care. Care can’t wait because people die without it.


Campbell, Cormac. “Disabled Boy’s Family Say They Struggle to Get Proper Care.” BBC News, BBC, 13 Mar. 2023,

Rose, Beth. “Disabled People Fear Shortage of Personal Assistants and the Loss of Independence.” BBC News, BBC, 2 Sept. 2022,

Roy, Lillian, and Angela MacKenzie. “’I Can’t Live That Way’: Montreal Man Seeking Medically Assisted Death Due to Home Care Conditions.” CTV News, CTV News, 29 Sept. 2022,

Serres, Chris. “Stranded without Care, Minnesota Man Loses Limbs Because of Severe Staffing Shortage.” Star Tribune, Star Tribune Media Company, LLC, 5 Nov. 2022,

Serres, Chris. “Dennis Prothero, a Firefighter, Veteran and Quadriplegic Who Sought Better Home Care, Dies at 68.” Star Tribune, Star Tribune Media Company, LLC, 17 Feb. 2023,

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