Ireland's Carer Crisis: 'I couldn't go to my grandson's funeral because of a lack of emergency respite'
A carer who looked after her husband and mother and dealt with the loss of two young grandchildren has condemned a plan to restrict homecare supports, saying: "The mental strain on carers will be too much."
Cancer survivor Teresa McNally cared for her husband, Patrick McNally (56), after he was diagnosed with lung cancer. She went on to receive a diagnosis of breast cancer herself and then cared for her mother, Frances (90), who had dementia, while she was herself recovering from cancer.
Ms McNally went on to lose two grandchildren, Darra O'Donovan (15), from Co Limerick, who died of sudden adult death syndrome in 2011, and her grandson, Patrick McNally (15 months), who drowned in Costa Rica in 2014.
But the carer struggled to attend her first grandson's funeral and was unable to fly to Costa Rica for baby Patrick's funeral, as she couldn't access emergency respite care.
Such human loss has shone a light on the tough circumstances carers on the frontline can suffer.
Reacting to the curbs on the homecare scheme until November and an expected form of 'co-payment' plan akin to the Fair Deal, Ms McNally said: "This is going to force more people into nursing homes.
"We don't have the hospital space, we don't have the beds. I don't understand this policy because this is affecting older people who have beds, they have homes.
"Why make caring at home even harder than it already is?"
Ms McNally said she only had half an hour homecare in the morning and half an hour in the evening for her mother and she claims she was refused any further support.
"Even that half-hour break was something for me but to have absolutely nothing, I don't know how carers will manage," she said.
"If a person is older and sick, they need to be treated with dignity and care and if this is the way the system is going to treat carers, their mental health will be impacted."
Ms McNally, from Loughshinny, Co Dublin, has shared her story of loss and survival with the Irish Independent.
Ms McNally said the system was so futile when she was in a caring role that she struggled to get to two of her grandchildren's funerals. "It's lonely being a carer," she said.
"We need more homecare packages and for HSE carers to spend longer in people's homes.
"Carers need more respite, and emergency respite should be available when needed."
Family Carers Ireland is calling on the Government to spend an additional €3.2m a year on carers.
Contact Family Carers Ireland on: 1800 24 07 24 or visit www.familycarers.ie online.