While Christmas is a time of goodwill and festivities for most, the burden on those caring for their loved ones at home is greatly increased with the majority of schools, residential care centres and support networks closed. Family Carers Ireland’s National Freephone Careline 1800 24 07 24 experiences a spike in calls this time every year from those suffering from increased social isolation and stress and facing no prospect of a break.
Ireland’s family carers are the hidden, unpaid workforce saving the state €10bn every year by caring for loved ones such as children or adults with physical or intellectual disabilities, older people, the terminally ill or those suffering from chronic illnesses or addiction. Many carry the burden of caring alone when this should be a shared responsibility between the carer, family, friends, the community and the State. This has never been more relevant, given that the latest HSE figures show that 7,900 people were on the waiting list for home supports at the end of October – an increase of 1,500 in just six months.
“Many family carers do not have the luxury of Christmas holidays or breaks. In fact, Christmas to some family carers can be a time of isolation, increased workload and severe financial pressure with rising heating and living costs in this cold weather,” says Catherine Cox, Head of Communications and Carer Engagement with Family Carers Ireland.
“We would urge family members, friends and the wider community to share the care over the coming weeks while in the longer term, the Government must tackle the postcode lottery in supports and services including access to vital respite for exhausted family carers.”
Take time to pay a visit:
Socialising and visiting friends and family over Christmas is almost impossible for a full-time family carer. Taking time to drop in and say hello will greatly relieve the sense of isolation and disconnect from the community felt by many.
Offer a helping hand:
Simple chores such as shopping for Christmas dinner, fuel or gifts bring added stress for those experiencing financial hardship and/or caring round-the-clock and unable to take a break. Offering a helping hand with these essential tasks during the season of giving will reduce this burden.
Speak to your local representative:
Thousands of family carers will struggle physically, mentally, emotionally and financially this Christmas. Keep family carers on the agenda by asking your local representative what they are doing to reduce the burden of caring highlighted by recent research* which shows that:
· Almost two thirds of family carers are providing more than 100 hours of care per week
· Half said they were diagnosed with mental ill health
· Three quarters worry about not having enough money in the future
· 71% had no access to respite.