Carers

Who are carers?

Carers provide high levels of care at home to a wide range of people, including people who are frail in old age, have severe disabilities or are terminally ill. Generally, this care is provided all day every day, and amounts to a full-time occupation. Ninety per cent of care in the community is performed by family carers.

What does caring involve?

It can often be extremely difficult to care for a severely incapacitated person at home. While carers can feel a deep sense of satisfaction in helping to maintain the independence and dignity of the person being cared for, they can also feel that the work they do goes unrecognised and unappreciated.

The relationship between the carer and the person being cared for is very significant. Depending on this relationship, issues of control may have to be addressed. It is important for carers to find a balance between assisting the person they care for to be as independent as possible, while at the same time looking after their own well-being.

The physical and emotional stresses caused by very intensive long-term care at home can be high, and many carers suffer a range of physical and emotional difficulties, sometimes resulting in serious deterioration of the carer's own health.

If a carer has had to leave employment in order to be a full-time carer, there may be financial pressures. Providing adequately for an incapacitated person can also strain a budget.

Carers can often feel extremely isolated, and occasionally suffer from despair. It is important for full-time carers to take advantage of respite care and home help when they need a break from caring.

Carers have their own personal and self-fulfilment needs and these need to be recognised and supported. These supports include practical assistance with caring duties, respite care (residential and home-based), training and education, opportunities for social interaction, involvement in the planning and delivery of support services, and finance to cover the additional costs of providing care at home.

What financial help is available for carers?

There are three different schemes available through the Department of Social and Family Affairs to assist carers: the Carer's Allowance, which is a means-tested payment for carers on low income, the Carer's Benefit, for people who leave the workforce temporarily in order to care for someone, and the Respite Care Grant (see below).

What other assistance can carers get?

There is a wide range of assistance available to carers and those they care for. You may be able to obtain technical aids, such as orthopaedic shoes or hearing aids, or get help in adapting or extending your home to accommodate an incapacitated person.

What is the Carers Association?

The Carers Association is the national voluntary organisation of family carers in the home. The Association was established in 1987 and today has 16 resource centres and two service bases from which it delivers its range of services.

It is owned and controlled by carers and represents their interests as well as providing a range of supports and services, aimed at helping to increase the quality of life for both the Carer and the person receiving care at home.

The Association:

  • Lobbies politically both at local and national level
  • Offers a Home Respite service
  • Provides training courses for carers
  • Carries out activities to promote issues facing carers, including running the National Carers Week and Carer of the Year Awards, publishing Take Care magazine – for and about carers, conducting conferences and seminars, and producing videos and promotional materials
  • Operates the National Care Line on Freefone 1800 24 07 24

The Carers Association can be contacted at: Tel: 056 772 1424/056 775 3532 or FREEFONE 1800 24 07 24; Email: info@carersireland.com; Website; www.carersireland.com.

Can I get help in the home?

The Carers Association runs a Home Respite Service, which provides flexible and practical support to family carers in the home.

While in the Carer’s home, Respite Workers work alongside the carer doing whatever the carer needs to help ease their burden of care. An important aspect of the service is the control exercised by the carer. The philosophy underlying the service is one of dedication to meeting the needs of the carer first and foremost.

The service operated by the Carers Association is flexible: the Carer may use the service at an agreed time to assist him/her in carrying out a particularly complex or difficult activity with the cared-for person; they may decide to use the time to take a short rest, pursue an education or training programme, do the shopping or whatever else they wish outside they home, while the Respite Worker looks after the cared-for person; or they may require the Respite Worker to take over some domestic duties while they tend to the cared-for person.

Carers can contact the association to refer themselves for the service. Referrals are also taken from family members, GPs, public health nurses, social workers, and other professionals in the voluntary and statutory services.

What is respite care?

Respite care is a facility which allows a carer a period of time away from their care duties. It may be home-based or residential.

In practice, respite care is provided to a varying degree at a number of locations around the country – in some cases by your Health Service Executive Area and in other cases by voluntary organisations. It can involve providing alternative family or institutional care for a person in order to enable the carer to take a short break, holiday or rest. This can be a short-term arrangement (e.g., for an evening) or a much longer arrangement for a holiday.

In December 2005, the Department of Health and Children announced additional funding for day and respite care centres across Ireland. It is proposed to allocate €9 million over 2006 and 2007 to allow for an additional 1,325 places per week in these centres.

To organise respite care, apply to the Disability Services Manger in your Health Service Executive Area and/or to a voluntary organisation that caters for people with the relevant disability.

What is the Respite Care Grant?

Certain carers may be eligible for a Respite Care Grant – an annual payment of €1200 made by the Department of Social and Family Affairs, which can be used by carers as they wish.

All carers receiving a Carer’s Allowance, Carer’s Benefit, Constant Attendance Allowance or Prescribed Relative’s Allowance will automatically receive the Grant. Other carers providing full-time care may also be eligible for the Grant, providing you fulfil certain criteria. You must be caring for the person on a full-time basis, for at least 6 months, and must not be working or participating in training or education courses for more than 15 hours per week outside the home.

If you do not receive the Respite Care Grant automatically, you can obtain an application form from your local Social Welfare Office, Citizens Information Centre or from the Department of Social and Family Affairs, Locall 1890 20 23 25.

Can carers get training?

Some carers may feel that they are not entirely prepared for the responsibilities of full-time caring. The Carers Association offers a 12-week City & Guilds-accredited training course for family carers and Home Respite Workers. The course aims to address common difficulties involved in caring and equips carers with the knowledge and skills necessary to care for a person. An optional module on IT skills is included.

The Association also runs other courses on first aid, health and safety aspects of caring, caring for children with special needs and entitlements for carers.

Reviewed: September 26, 2006