Can we afford not to support our carers?
Ireland's long-suffering family carers urgently need a break, writes Catherine Cox
Carers don't want our praise or pity. They don't want to be patronised or indeed canonised. They are not saints. They are ordinary people who are struggling to care for their loved ones without the supports they so desperately need. Carers are angry at a system which exploits, and sometimes abuses, their family bonds and only pays lip service to the demands of caring safely for their loved one.
They need respite. They need training. Some need a downstairs bathroom. Others need home help hours when they need it and not when the system decides it can give it - if indeed ever. Thousands of family carers are living in crisis, urgently needing a break. Their own physical and mental health is suffering, and they cannot get respite, even emergency respite, when they can no longer provide care.
In Ireland today all home care supports are discretionary and therefore resource rather than needs-led. This equates to a system which is inequitable, inconsistent and flawed. A postcode lottery exists. Where you live determines what supports you will get. Or not. This has to change. Carers must have access to key supports in their community. Supports such as timely information, in-home respite, peer support groups and ongoing training in line with the demands of their caring roles. Only then will they be able to continue caring for their loved ones, thereby saving this State €10bn each year.