There are many supports available to those taking care of elderly loved ones in Ireland. Photo: Dominik Lange

Looking after loved ones? Help is out there

Caring for elderly loved ones is an important part of life for many people, and in Ireland there is a range of support services there for us when we need them.

Today, the HSE delivers health services through 7 hospital groups and 9 community healthcare organisations (CHO) across the country.

The CHO support people who are dependant at home while also providing support to family carers and informal carers.

When it comes to accessing community health services, the HSE recommends that the 1st point of contact should be with a GP or through a local primary care team (PCT) who can be contacted through a local health centre.

A care needs assessment then identifies an individual’s dependencies and care needs to ensure that the right care is provided in the most appropriate setting.

A health professional will assess a person’s ability to look after themselves safely, looking at areas such as personal hygiene, mobility and the ability to prepare meals.

For those caring for an elderly person in their home, the HSE Home Support Service offers support for them to remain in their own home for as long as possible and to support their carer. The support the carer receives depends on their individual needs and will be provided by the HSE or by an external provider approved by the HSE.

The HSE also directly provides and funds voluntary organisations to provide day care services such as showering and chiropody, while also providing a more social element for an elderly person.

It is important to remember, however, that caring for an elderly loved one can be quite stressful. For that reason, respite services both in the home and in nursing homes, are recognised as hugely important for carers. A primary care team or public health nursing service are there to assist carers in accessing respite services in their local area.

One word that we are hearing more and more these days is dementia. A diagnosis of dementia for a loved one can be very difficult for a family to cope with and to understand fully. For a person with dementia, the home can pose difficulties and sometimes risks. Some simple adaptations can make it safer for everyone. Dementia is a progressive disease and it’s important to reassess the home and physical surroundings regularly. Some of the suggestions outlined by the HSE are as simple as reducing clutter, keeping a calendar up to date and visible, or leaving out clothes in the correct order for dressing.

A carer could also consider making adaptations to the home like adding stair or bathroom rails, changing the lighting or removing trip hazards both inside and outside.

Services for people with dementia are provided by a range of people, health professionals and organisations across the health services.