Johnny Fallon

Irish Political Commentator

Who cares about those who care?

Last October we took the difficult decision to place my Dad in a nursing home. He has been ill for many years and yet another stroke made it all but impossible for us to care for him at home. Trying to look at it logically it was the only decision open to us. I like logic. Emotion is far less of a friend. No matter how many people agree with the decision, friends and professionals, the fact that he is now in a nursing home is an emotional scar. The home itself seems excellent, the standard of care is high and the staff are lovely. That helps. Yet I find myself visiting him and he still cries about missing home. In this recession everyone knows business is tough, I flit from place to place and meeting to meeting chasing work everywhere to keep my own family afloat. Between these meetings I try to visit him when I can. Just the other day he cried and said ‘Please don’t go…’ . That was tough. He was the man who collected me from every place I ever ended up, every time I had no lift, every time I got stranded or any time I felt alone and just needed to get home. Life can be very cruel.

Those who act in the role of carer do an amazing job. It is a 24/7 responsibility, its stressful and demanding. All across our country we have people doing it. Parents who look after disabled children, spouses or family members looking after an elderly relative or care workers who come in for a few hours to help. My Dad would have been in a nursing home many years ago were people not willing to give up so much to care for him and keep him at home for as long as we could. Thousands of people manage to live out their days in the comfort and peace of their own home thanks to a sacrifice by others. It is a good thing to see in a society. However, aren’t we used to good things costing us a lot of money? Well, that’s just it, these carers are not costing us money, not only are they managing to help improve the lot of those they care for but they save the state hundreds of millions of euro by ensuring that people are not placed in expensive full time care. It is a classic case of a win win scenario. The state saves money, the people are happy and everything works out………so why is it not that simple?

Why is it that successive ministers pay lip service to the idea of homecare and yet fail to deliver? Why is it that we say the aim is that more people will be able to stay in their own homes but then do the opposite? The real problem is how we view Carers. We pay them €204 per week. That’s fine but it takes no account of the hours worked, the fact that it is often at times when any other job would be getting overtime rates and so forth and it is nothing in comparison to what is being saved. All you need to know is apparent from the budget we pay it out of. It’s not the health budget it’s the Social welfare budget. Why? because it’s not a job, its seen as a welfare benefit. Carers are not employed workers doing a job on behalf of the state they are instead seen as people benefiting from state payments.

Now, in our own case it was my father’s ill health that led to him going into full time care but increasing budgetary strain is placing many families in a situation where they will be forced to reconsider home care. The Department will tell you that they will change the means test and increase the budget. This again ignores the long term saving to the state in the hope of making a quick budget buck. It is based on the premise that people will not flood the nursing homes, if they thought that would happen there would be no cut at all. No, it’s a calculated gamble that families will sacrifice even more to help their loved ones stay at home. We say that we understand the economics of it, we say that keeping people at home makes sense and we say that these people are saving the state a fortune. Then we cut the respite care grant, we cut the home help hours, and we cut the amount of people eligible for housing adaptation grants. This at a time when we are offering all kinds of other incentives in areas for people to get construction work done and houses made more efficient. However the construction and home improvement work involved in housing adaptation was not seen as such a ‘stimulus’. No, because it’s just another benefit. In a world where executives get ‘top up payments’ and bonuses that would make any fair person blush, we say that if a carer were to double their workload and care for two people they don’t get double the allowance they get 1.5 carers allowance. How’s that for salary efficiency?

I don’t blame the politicians to be honest. They just follow what seems to be the advice within their departments and take the path of least resistance. Nothing new there. Bigger fish to fry. I do however blame the people who are supposed to be experts working within these departments who can see the figures but just don’t like accepting them.

What kind of society are we, if the sick, elderly and disabled are seen as just a drain on resources? There can be no planning for the future if this is the road we set ourselves. It’s a future we all face and let me tell you now, it looks bleak. Who is going to say enough? Where do we draw the line? When are we going to start caring about those who care?

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9 thoughts on “Who cares about those who care?

  1. Antoinette Victory on said:

    Dear Johnny sorry to hear about ur dad. My father is in a nursing home he has Alzheimers. My mother has dementia which is progressing to full scale Alzheimers. Its a sad situation. Your question Who cares about the Carer? is a valid point not only for politicians but society at large. My personal experience is one of isolation and loss of social contact. Friends and community neighbours feel awkward and embarrassed to drop in for a visit or chat. The govt position to cut allowances is a reflection that people dont care about carers they dont value their efforts to support them financially or socially. My parents are elderly but I would l ike to see more considrration for those who care for a child with disability in their homes this is a long lonely road with very little respite for exhausted parents. I would appeal to readers if you know someone in this situation just phone them or visit them brighten their day.

  2. Seamus Mc Tague on said:

    A brilliant piece of writing. Your reference to your Dad crying and begging you not to leave is heartrending. At the same time, it is only fair to say that we are still needing to come to grips with the reality that there is not enough cash in the kitty to afford all we would need to bring about the kind of society we would like to have in Ireland.

  3. John Bosco on said:

    A really excellent piece , that expresses the fears , the frustration , and the every day struggle of so many. Perhaps Eamonn Gilmore should see this as the great social problem of our time !!

  4. angela on said:

    Dear Johnny,thank you for putting together exactly what its like to be a carer on paper.Its so true ,that the government looks at those of us who are in receipt of carers allowance as “in benefit”.Also their are people caring for their loved ones for years who don,t automatically receive this allowance ,and the government think nothing of putting them through the constant battle of having to prove what earnings they have etc..when its obvious these people are saving the state millions over the years.Its time to say” enough is enough “I care for my disabled son and even though i am lucky enough to get this allowance,its never enough, as they have cut back so much from the vulnerable in this country .In my sons situation he is in a wheelchair ,and totally dependent on us for all of his needs,we do this automatically because we love him ,but if anything were to happen to us (his parents) in the morning there is nowhere for him to go ,now he is only in his 20s and we are in our 50s,but we constantly worry about this .I sometimes think us carers make it too easy for this government ,because they know we wont just dump our elderly or disabled at their doorstep,we are just too busy worrying about their needs and who will care for them when we are gone.

  5. There is support for Carers out there. I work for a national charity that supports carers offering support advice and information, lobbies MP’s, works with government. We care for the carers

  6. Carolyn... on said:

    Oh Dear…. I’m in tears reading this… I’ve been caring for my mum who has Kidney Failure, Parkinson’s, arthritis, diverticular disease, osteoporosis and skin cancer for years… Just this past New Year’s Day, she ended up in hospital with a bad UTI, and a fractured knee from a confused stumble… She became very confused in the hosp. despite being on a ward she’s regularly on, and with staff she knows well, and agitated, and last week started having really serious seizures… Two complicating factors in all of this is that Mum needs dialysis three times a day which I’ve been administering, and I’m a wheelchair user… So after eight years caring for her on my own, the consultant tells me that I have to concede defeat, and place her into a Nursing Home… I’m heartbroken!… And I’m dreading the day when she’s transferred from the hospital to the nursing home, and not home to me… Also, if I’m being selfish, not only does my already limited income drop dramatically, but I’ll lose my identity… For years when anybody asked me what I do for a living, I answered with great pride ‘I am a Family Carer, I care for my mum’… Now that will be gone… I just feel cast adrift!… John, thanks for this… I feel your pain… God bless you, and all the best to all carers out there…

    • Fergus Williams on said:

      Carolyn, I feel your pain. I have been through it all. I know what it is like. I actually lost an awful lot of “friends” as a result of being a carer to my mam. Then as someone said to me. “Can you really call them friends?”

      Even almost two years later, I still find it very difficult to come to terms with putting my mother into a Nursing Home. But maybe it is for the best for both of you. I know how hard it is. The doctors are worried about your mum and about you also. I swore I would “never let my mother go into a nursing home but I had no choice in the end. I will be thinking of you in your distress. Because believe me, I know what you are going through. XX

  7. Fergus Williams on said:

    Hi Johnny, My heat goes out to you. I was in the same boat. I looked after my mother for 9 1/2 years with little or no help from the Community. It took 7 years before I got help from the HSE and then that was only 1 hour per week. After 6 months then I had to pay someone to come in to let me out for an extra hour and eventually she told me to stay out for 2 hours. My family, one sister and a brother used to help out at weekends as well and sometimes I would get away for a few hours.

    Like yourself we had to make a snap decision to put my mother into a nursing home. Though the nursing home is very nice and you can come and go whenever you like the emotional scar is very much there. I ended up in hospital myself for 3 weeks after because I burned myself out basically. Wasn’t aware of the Carers Society at the time. So well done to you and we will fight on.

  8. Liz fox on said:

    Thank you John for bring to light about the cares payment my husband has alzymiers he only 62 I only get 101 for looking after him 24/7 if he was in home it would cost the state more but I love him as long as I have breath I will care for him

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