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‘Bring Kathie back to Skye’: Exhausted pensioner travels 12 hours every week to see his wife in a care home

The 82-year-old says he is emotional and worn out after spending so much time on the bus.

Toony Mcloughlin wants his wife Kathie to come home to Portree. He is pictured looking at a picture of his wife.
Tony McLoughlin with a picture of his wife Kathie. Image: Sandy McCook/DC Thomson.

A pensioner in Skye has shared his heartache over becoming separated from his wife who is staying in a care home 130 miles away.

Almost two years and hundreds of hours on the bus between Portree, Inverness and Dingwall is taking its toll on 82-year-old Tony McLoughlin.

Mr McLoughlin, a former plasterer who moved to the island more than 35 years ago, says he is “exhausted, emotional and worn out”, and just wants “Kathie to come home”.

The pensioner is mindful of the fact 84-year-old Kathie will need to stay in a care home.

However, he is calling for NHS Highland and service providers to allow her to move to the home ‘just two minutes from his house.’

Gruelling journey for 82-year-old

It takes six hours each way – with a change of bus in Inverness bus station, and on to Dingwall, and the same again on the way back.

That is a 12-hour journey every single week – when there is a nursing home in view of Mr McLoughlin’s home in Portree.

His wife went into the care home in Dingwall 19 months ago.

Home Farm care home on Skye that was owned by HC One during Covid.
Home Farm on Skye. Image: Sandy McCook/ DC Thomson.

The Press and Journal understands that at least three other families are in a similar predicament, with loved ones in care homes off the island.

Last year The Church of Scotland closed its home in Portree and residents were moved to Home Farm.

Mr McLoughlin said he has loved his wife from the moment they met as teenagers in Southport, then in the county of Lancashire.

Skye dream came true for couple

Their dream was to move to Skye, and by working hard they finally got to the island.

The couple have three adult children in their 50s and 60s.

The stresses and strains of the pandemic played heavily on Mrs McLoughlin’s mind, and the couple struggled to calm down and relax.

After a previous admission to the hospital in 2020, in 2022, a social worker offered two weeks of respite care for Mrs McLoughlin.

Tony wants his wife closer to home. Image: Sandy McCook/DC Thomson

Since then, those two weeks have been extended and then extended again.

Tony McLoughlin is exasperated by the circumstances.

He said: “She wants to be near me, and near the place we have loved. But instead, she is in a care home in Dingwall without anyone around her that she knows.

“I have tried everything to find her a bed on the island – but no one seems able to help me. I am desperate. They tell me ‘Home Farm is full’.”

“I am refusing to pay for her care, we don’t want her there. It is not something we asked for.”

Inverness Bus Station
Mr McLoughlin passes through busy Inverness bus station as he waits for a bus to Dingwall. Image: Sandy McCook/DC Thomson.

Mr McLoughlin approached The Press and Journal after we highlighted community concerns last week after a Skye teacher struggled to get the medical care she needed.

He cried: “Nobody wants to help, when I ask the social workers or the doctors, or nurses they fix their gaze on something else, and try to ignore me.”

Mr McLoughlin leaves his home in Portree every Tuesday morning to make the six-hour trip to Dingwall by bus.

He stays three nights in a hotel in Dingwall, paid for by himself.

Plea for Skye care home move

Emotional and tired Mr McLoughlin wants his wife in the care home he can see from his sheltered housing home on the Isle of Skye.

He said: “I would love to see Kathie in Home Farm care home. It would be a 20-minute walk and I could see her every single day.

A Highland Council spokesperson said: “ In Highland Council the provision of adult care is operated on the council’s behalf by NHS Highland which is the lead agency model in operation.

An NHS Highland spokesperson said: “We are working directly with the individual in receipt of care to ensure her needs and wishes are met.”