Who cares for the carers?

 

Sir, – This week is National Carers Week. This is the week when we publicly acknowledge and celebrate the work done by family carers.

There are over 360,000 family carers in Ireland. That’s 360,000 people of all ages who work tirelessly to take care of a family member who needs care.

We tend to associate carers as caring for older people only, but that is not the case. They care for loved ones right across the age spectrum, from infancy to the most elderly. They care for loved ones with chronic, degenerative and terminal physical and intellectual illness and disability.

It is a long and tiring journey. It can also be lonely and heartbreaking. There is a huge shortage of respite services and nursing-home beds throughout the country. Many carers never have a break. Many live in fear of the future. What will happen to their loved ones if something happens to them? Older carers worry constantly about what will happen to their loved ones if they were to die before them.

Being a family carer can be a very isolating experience. Many carers do not have the freedom to go out to socialise with friends, to pursue personal hobbies and interests, to do the usual everyday simple things that we all take for granted, like going out for a walk. These simple pleasures in life are out of the question when a loved one requires full-time care and supervision and there is nobody else to help. Understandably, the health of the family carer suffers. Depression, anxiety, panic, fear of the future and of the unknown, isolation and profound loneliness are common in the lives of family carers and have a huge negative impact on their health.

Family carers are often “on call” for 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for several years. They do so out of love for their loved one and dedication to providing the care that they need. They are among the hardest working members of our society.

Yet, when family carers seek to return to the workplace after their years of work in the home, prospective employers often consider them as having been absent from the traditional workplace for a long period of time and will not consider their application. Having worked as a family carer is commonly viewed by employers as not having worked at all.

This is the reality of being a family carer. This is reality for the 360,000 people who prop up our health services and our social care services, who give tirelessly, and who fight for the welfare of our most vulnerable, their loved ones.

Acknowledge them and all that they do. Value them, support them, help them, every day.

Without this practically invisible workforce of 360,000 family carers, can you even begin to imagine the additional crisis which our already severely challenged health service would face? – Yours, etc,

BERNADETTE BRADY,

Rathfarnham,

Dublin 16