Family Carers Ireland has received a significant number of calls to its National Freephone Careline (1800 24 07 24) from family carers asking what might happen should they or their loved one contract the Covid-19 virus or be forced to self-isolate. “Many of these family carers care for young children or adults with profound disability who may not be viewed as vulnerable to Covid-19 but are most vulnerable in terms of their care needs should their primary carer be forced to self-isolate or become hospitalised” stated Catherine Cox, Head of Communications and Carer Engagement, Family Carers Ireland.
Given the unprecedented pressure on our hospitals due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the organisation’s top priority is to support as many people as possible remaining in the care of their loved ones at home. With this in mind, there is an urgent need for clear guidance for family carers on how to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in a home caring situation as well as a contingency plan with specific steps to follow in the event of the family carer becoming unable to continue caring. The organisation has already developed and published an Emergency Care Guide to help prepare for such eventualities, and it is now urging the HSE to present a clear protocol on how the health service will deal with such cases.
As the number of those diagnosed increases and many of these will be sent home to manage their own recovery, we anticipate that an increase in demand for home support corresponding to the surge in hospital demand. In order to prepare for this, current Home Support Packages are being reviewed and only cases requiring medical or personal care will be most likely continued. Otherwise families will see a reduction, or in some cases, elimination of existing home care hours on the basis of the unprecedented community support being mobilized in the face of an unprecedented national challenge. Family Carers Ireland accepts the need for this in light of the unique challenge that the Covid-19 pandemic represents. The organisation will be there to support those families and will work with other groups in the community such as An Garda Síochána, community groups and organisations to try to minimise the impact that this will have on caring families. “We are all in this together and must show solidarity in these difficult times” said Ms Cox.
Another major concern for family carers is the risk posed by the shortage of personal protective equipment such as hand sanitiser gel and gloves, particularly for those providing intimate care to vulnerable children and adults. Family carers are also concerned that they may be unable to access products essential to their caring role such as medicines, incontinence pads, catheters, diet supplements, etc. as the situation worsens.
Family Carers Ireland is calling on Government to put a number of measures in place to protect Family Carers including:
- Family carers should be named and recognised as a ‘vulnerable group’ by the Public Health Emergency Committee and a guidance document for family carers should be produced giving advice on how to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in caring situations, setting out protocols and steps to be taken should a family carer or their loved one display symptoms.
- Priority testing and verification where there is suspected case of Covid-19 within a family carers home.
- Clarification over the continuation of home support services in cases where a person in a household has Covid-19 or is in self-isolation.
- Contingency plans for when a family carer is diagnosed with Covid-19 or is in self-isolation.
- All family carers should have access to personal protective equipment including hand sanitiser, gloves and aprons and gowns where necessary and be given clear guidance on how to use them correctly.
- Covid-19 has forced the closure of many routine services family carers and their loved ones rely on including respite and day care services. Efforts should be made to provide in-home alternatives where practical.
Family Carers Ireland has received confirmation from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection that family carers working up to 18.5 hours a week outside the home and in receipt of Carer’s Allowance can apply for the Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment and will receive payment should they lose some or all of their hours due to the pandemic.
Family Carers Ireland is the national charity supporting and advocating on behalf the 355,000 family carers across the country who care 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.
It provides a range of services and supports for family carers through its 22 resource centres nationwide and through our National Freephone Careline 1800 240724.
If there are businesses or philanthropic organisations out there who would like to support family carers at this time please do so here.