Anyone currently working as a carer is almost certainly feeling pressure as the COVID-19 crisis continues. This is especially true if they’re caring for an older person who’s at higher risk if they contract the virus. Luckily, there’s an amazing resource available; Family Carers Ireland have a whole host of practical and emotional support services for carers who might be feeling anxious or overwhelmed. We speak to Marketing Project Manager Sue O’Grady to find out more about the support and resources available.
“Right now, there are around 355,000 family carers in Ireland”, she begins. “And of that number, one in nine are working and caring. That’s a lot.” Official census figures show this number as far lower, because as Sue explains, there’s an issue around self-identification. “A lot of people think, ‘I’m not his carer, I’m his mum’. Yes, you are their parent, but you’re their carer as well. Once you recognise that, you open yourself up to more support and help.”
Right now, FCI’s free careline is busy, as caregivers worry about the potential knock-on effects of coronavirus. Their main concern, says Sue, is who’s going to look after the person I care for if I contract the virus? “They’re still going to the supermarket and pharmacy, so they’re anxious.” FCI have made several tools available to help offer support. One of them is this Emergency Care Plan. “We’re asking carers to fill this out. If they get sick, it’s a detailed document about their loved one that they can hand over to someone else.” The plan covers everything from the cared-for person’s medication and food to likes and dislikes. “It’s important right now to nominate someone you think would be able to cope looking after your loved one. Your partner won’t necessarily be able to do it – if you have COVID-19, it’s likely the people in your house will have it too.”
FCI also have a limited supply of PPE, which they’re making available for free to carers who need it. “Supplying them with masks, gloves and sanitiser is helping allay fears”, says Sue. “It’s great to see so many people diversifying in the face of a crisis. A costume company in Cork rang us and offered us a consignment of masks! We’re also getting calls from ladies making them at home. So many people are doing things for charities and the HSE that’s going under the radar. We’d be lost without them.”
The careline also offers an array of emotional support, like free counselling. “For lots of carers right now, working from home is adding huge stress”, says Sue. “Before, they would have been bringing their kids to day services, now the whole family is at home. Hopefully bosses are mindful of that, but it’s a stressful situation.” Another useful outlet is the weekly Facebook Live ‘Carer’s Coffee Club’ FCI have started hosting. Every Thursday morning, they invite a guest speaker to answer any questions followers might have around topics like medication or parenting during a pandemic. “These sessions have been incredibly popular so far”, says Sue. “Mental health management is really important in times like these.”
To find out more about Family Carers Ireland and the resources mentioned in this article visit their website here.