A complete overhaul of the State’s attitude to providing care for older people at home is urgently needed.
A large number of beds in our acute hospitals are being taken up by people who would prefer to be at home, being cared for by family or friends.
Yet huge obstacles are being put in the way of people who are trying to take care of elderly patients, siblings or friends.
A complete overhaul is needed of the Carer’s Allowance and Carer’s Benefit system within the Department of Social Protection.
At the moment, people are waiting three months to have an application assessed. This is simply too long. Who can afford to give up work and look after an elderly relative and wait three months to see if you will receive a social welfare payment for this? If, after three months, there is a problem and you seek a review of the decision, you have to wait another three months.
Then there is the issue of home care supports. Once you are in the Fair Deal system, the HSE is paying more than €800 per week for your care on an ongoing basis.
Yet it is impossible for them to offer you the alternative of staying in your own home with ten to 14 hours of home help. Older people who wish to be cared for in the home and who have the available carers, must have their wishes facilitated.
It makes sense in terms of social justice, social isolation, health and well-being as well as economic sense.
“There are so many families who would love to take care of an elderly relative but cannot do so without state support.
Significant extra resources must be put into the Carer’s Allowance and Carer’s Benefit sections of the Department of Social Protection to deal with the backlog and reduce processing times to less than one month.
Also the provision of home care hours as an alternative to nursing home support under Fair Deal must also be prioritised.
It is not always possible to provide care for an elderly person in their own home but where it is possible and carers are available, every effort must be made to facilitate that opportunity.