The brick wall Wexford carers face every day
In the second of a two-part special on the neglect of carers in Co Wexford, David Looby meets an exasperated care support manager and hears the difficult, personal story of one local carer
Impossible demands are being asked of Wexford's carers who are finding doors slammed in their faces at every turn.
This is the view of support manager with Wexford Carer's Susan Eccleston who said supports for carers is at an all time low.
'I am here two and a half years and I've seen a lot but I don't think it has ever been this bad. Public health nurses haven't been putting any healthcare packages into the community since June. They've been told if they provide the service they will lose their job. Rumour has it that the budget has been eaten up by the National Children's Hospital.'
She said the only way someone can access support is if a cared for person dies.
'If you were to take a 21 hour homecare package, there are 25 homecare packages for Wexford. Even if we were to get more or less of these they are only available to people who have been discharged from a hospital. CE workers are being employed and are going into homes of people with loved one's who have Alzheimers enabling them to get out and go into town for a coffee.'
Susan is trying to get more CE workers to fill the gap in the service in January at a time when Wexford Carer's organisation are already more than €3,000 over budget for 2019.
'I am already over my service level agreement. I can't pull back anymore because they are all absolutely necessary.'
She gave the example of a Wexford man who has full blown dementia who needs respite care, but there are no appropriate facilities for him to attend in the county.
'He is agile and not suitable for a nursing home. Respite hours are non existent. The waiting list is almost double what it was in June.'
Susan has had more people come into her at her office on Anne Street in Wexford over the last three months having had their carer's allowance applications rejected than she saw in her first two years in the role.
'They are making it more difficult for people. I am attending oral hearings with carers. One woman has a relative who has mental health difficulties. She had to go to an oral hearing for a one off annual payment of €1,700 and was denied. She had a document which said he should be in a hospital and yet she was denied the support grant.'
Susan said according to the 2016 Census there are 7,000 people who identify themselves as carers in Co Wexford, adding that 3,600 carers are on the Wexford Family Carer's Ireland mailing list.
She said many people work full-time and still find time to check in on relatives every day, often before and after work, ensuring they have their meals, medication and that their needs are met.
Dementia is a growing medical issue confronting people and Susan pointed out that almost 400 people attended a dementia seminar in Enniscorthy.
'Wexford is the worst county in Ireland for people with Alzhemier's who need support services. To get the supports required would cost €650,000 a year and no one is willing to pay.
'Nothing has been done by Fine Gael. I have a woman who is looking after her daughter for 30 years. She's 67 now and has an enlarged heart. People like her are worried about what is going to happen her daughter when she dies.'
She said carers are like everybody else. 'They all have mortgages, loans etc. Where is it going to end? What has to happen in order for someone to actually stand up and do something. It costs almost €5,000 a week to keep someone in a hospital and up to €1,500 in a nursing home per week. It costs between €800 and €900 a week to keep someone at home and that's with minimal support and carer's only get a minimum payment. There is nothing for the carer. Nine times out of ten when I go into a carer's home and the cared for person looks well and has colour in her cheeks and the carer is falling apart and on their knees. You can talk about this until you are blue in the face. We are going to have a double whammy with carers also needing to be cared for as their overall health has deteriorated and they are suffering from anxiety and depression.'