The Covid-19 pandemic is a major cause for concern among the 355,000 family carers in Ireland who care at home for loved ones such as children or adults with physical or intellectual disabilities, frail older people, the terminally ill or those suffering from chronic illnesses or addiction.
We at Family Carers Ireland, the national charity which supports and advocates on behalf of family carers, have been inundated with calls to our National Freephone Careline (1800 24 07 24) from people asking what will happen should they or their loved one fall ill or be forced to self-isolate. Who will step in when the carer can no longer care?
Those fears have been compounded by a lack of access to PPE (personal protective equipment) while the closure of schools and community services and the redeployment of 750 home care workers to nursing homes is also piling pressure on already over-burdened and under-supported family carers.
In response to this, Family Carers Ireland has made an urgent call for:
- family carers to be recognised as a vulnerable group by the National Public Health Emergency Team and prioritised for testing
- contingency plans for when a family carers has Covid-19 or is in self-isolation
- access to PPE for family carers and guidance on how to use such equipment.
As an organisation, we too have been impacted severely by the current crisis. Our 22 resource and outreach centres have closed while training, support group meetings and fundraising events have been cancelled.
While our centres may have shut temporarily, staff across the country are continuing to check in with local family carers to ensure that they are not left feeling isolated or without essentials such as food and medicines. We have also secured a limited supply of PPE which we are distributing to family carers in need. Those wishing to access PPE are asked to contact our Careline.
We have allocated additional resources to the Careline following a surge in calls while an online counselling service is being established and a virtual Carers’ Coffee Club is up and running where health and wellbeing experts offer support and advice via Facebook Live.
We have produced an Emergency Action Plan booklet which allows family carers to record key information relating to the person(s) they care for including any illnesses, disabilities or difficulties; their care needs; medication requirements and key contacts within the health service and encourages them to identify a family member or friend (where available) who could provide care should they fall ill.
Amid concerns that most vulnerable people are missing out on food and other essentials due to widespread panic-buying, Family Carers Ireland and Age Action Ireland held successful discussions with Tesco resulting in family carers and over 65s being given dedicated early store access every Monday, Wednesday and Friday as of March 18th. We are extremely grateful to Tesco who have also generously donated €50,000 to help us support family carers through this crisis.
Our tagline is ‘no one should have to care alone’ and we believe this to be the case, now more than ever. For any family carer in need of support or advice, please contact our Freephone Careline on 1800 24 07 24 or visit familycarers.ie for more information.
Ruaidhri Kelly of Family Carers Ireland