Analysis: Just half an hour can help change dependence to independence
What can you do in 30 minutes? Maybe watch 'EastEnders' and catch up on the latest on Twitter. Or maybe you could pop to the shops, pick up something for dinner.
It doesn't seem like much time - only half an hour - but for those thousands of people over 65 who have been assessed as having a need for home care but who don't receive it, a 30-minute visit can be vital. The difference between staying in bed all day or having a shower and a hot meal with company.
For Ireland's 360,000 family carers, a 30-minute home care visit can ensure you can get some of your personal jobs done - or even just take your own shower - knowing your family member is getting the care they need, and you're getting the support necessary. It can be the difference between dependence and independence, between living in a residential home and staying at home as part of your community as you age.
For family carers, it is reassuring that when they need support from the State to help care for a loved one, it will be there. As our report published today documents, this is unfortunately not always the case.
The experience for many in accessing home care is far from ideal: applications for home care have been mislaid by the HSE; or you may be told you have been approved for home care but there is a waiting list of months; told that a 30-minute visit to help you wash your father is all that's available; told that weekend support is not available.
To be fair, home care supports are provided through the HSE to more than 50,000 people aged 65 and over. The challenge, however, is that each year there are an additional 20,000 joining this age group. Cumulatively, our population aged 65 and over has increased by more than 40pc in the past 12 years.
The HSE is currently preparing its Service Plan for 2019. What is needed is a visionary approach in keeping with the Sláintecare Implementation Strategy, whereby material and annual increases in resources for home care will be delivered.
Why do we continue to spend well over twice as much public funds on residential care as we do on home care? We also need to review the current employment regulations which make it unnecessarily difficult to recruit care workers from abroad.
The reality is that the future supply of paid care work will not come from Ireland but largely from abroad. Working conditions need to be good to both attract and keep high-calibre care workers - those with skills, empathy and patience, traits long shown by our own family carers.
There has been talk of a putting home care on a statutory footing - and the current review that is under way is welcome, but not progressing fast enough. This has to be a real Department of Health priority. Families need to be able to access high-quality home care support in a timely fashion.
Ireland's family carers deserve no less.
Liam O'Sullivan is executive director of Care Alliance Ireland