Rural carers hit by lack of respect and inadequate respite services

A lack of respect from many medical professionals; inadequate appropriate public transport; stress; and unavailability of flexible and responsive respite services were among the issues highlighted as affecting rural family carers in a recently published report.

‘Who cares, barriers to having a good quality of life for family carers in north Leitrim’, prepared for the 24/7 family carers’ group by Dr. Deirdre Byrne in October, was last week launched by MEP Marian Harkin in Manorhamilton, before a large attendance.

Family carers, the study revealed, are vulnerable to financial hardship and social isolation as well as poor physical and mental health. Those living in rural areas such as in north Leitrim have additional issues including lack of public transport and inadequate access to services and medical treatment, it was highlighted. One carer described her situation as being in “crisis mode”.

The report made numerous pleas for change. It advised that family carers need to be recognised and respected for the valuable role they play in society by the State, healthcare professionals and services providers as well as in their own communities.

It found that respite services which need respite only becomes available when the carer has reached breaking point, meaning that they don’t get the chance to plan their time away from their caring duties. Services need to be increased and made more flexible to reflect the needs of family carers, the report stated.

An emergency plan needs to be developed for extreme weather so that vulnerable people in north Leitrim can be reached, it was advised. Other recommendations included:

  • The employment of a carers development officer for Sligo / Leitrim / west Cavan.
  • The eligibility criteria for the house adaptation grant need should include retrospective site visits in emergency circumstances.
  • The motorised transport grant and mobility allowance scheme needs to be replaced and the criteria widened to include family care scenarios.
  • The national broadband plan needs to be delivered to rural north Leitrim to facilitate adequate mobile phone coverage.
  • Home care packages should be serviced by the HSE on public holidays.
  • Invest in mental health services and supports for children, young people and their carers.
  • Free training should be provided for carers on issues ranging from moving and handling to palliative care.
  • Training should be organised for health care professionals to include support, respect and understanding for the central role of the family carer.
  • There needs to be fair, equitable and consistent services available for people being cared for at home.
  • The group supports the call to reword Article 41.2 of the Constitution with a gender neutral statement that recognises the essential work done by carers in the home.
  • Appropriate and dedicated Government funding for family carers is needed for supports and services that are available and accessible to all family carers throughout the country.
  • The voice of family carers – recognised as a vulnerable group – should be represented by a minister for family carers.
  • The carers’ allowance needs to reflect the workload of family carers. It should be means tested but available to all.