Patric Neill from Bianconi Drive, Clonmel, who cares for his mother Catherine. Picture John D Kelly
Family Carers Ireland says Tipperary carers are finding it very difficult to get breaks from looking after elderly loved ones in their home due to a shortage of respite beds and staffing at HSE district hospital and geriatric units in the county.
Richie Molloy, manager of Family Carers Ireland's Clonmel centre, and Clonmel carer Patric Neill are appealing to the Government and HSE to increase funding and resources for respite breaks for carers. They have issued the call ahead of next week's Budget.
They argue the current shortages in respite beds and staff are forcing families to admit loved ones to long term nursing home care sooner than they would have if more respite breaks were available for those caring for them in the home.
Mr Molloy, who is also an independent county councillor, said it has been very hard for family carers in south Tipperary to access respite breaks over the past 12 months because of shortages in staffing and beds at HSE run centres like St Anthony's Unit in Clonmel, St Patrick's Hospital in Cashel, Carrick-on-Suir District Hospital and St Theresa's District Hospital in Clogheen.
He said carers are finding it very difficult to even secure one day of respite care for loved ones to allow the carer attend a special occasion like a wedding.
"You could book the respite and at the last minute it could be cancelled due to staff shortages. That happens a lot," said Mr Molloy.
And he points out that respite breaks of a week of nursing home care once every ten weeks are now nearly impossible for new applicants to obtain.
"Respite means the carer can go on caring for a lot longer and if it's not there the person they are caring for ends up going into the Fair Deal Scheme a lot quicker," Mr Molloy pointed out.
Carer Patric Neill from Bianconi Drive in Clonmel said family carers are becoming "professionalised" in the caring work they do but are not getting any financial reward or adequate respite and are ending up exhausted.
He has been caring for his mother Catherine for the past 13 years and is now her only surviving child.
Catherine, who is 74, suffers from a number of debilitating conditions ranging from Ischemic heart failure and COPD to asthma, osteo-artritis and cellulitis. She is currently in South Tipperary General Hospital as she is too ill at the moment to be at home.
Patric has been approved the one week in ten weeks respite nursing home care for his mother but he claims you aren't guaranteed of getting it. Accessing the respite is still dependant on the availability of funding, beds and staffing.
Patric is due to get a week of respite nursing home care for his mother later this month but he says it is subject to funding being available.
Due to his mother's worsening health, Patric has recently made the decision to apply for the Fair Deal Scheme to admit his beloved mam to a nursing home for long term care.
He says providing more funding and resources to allow carers get decent respite breaks would be money well spent as carers save the State a huge amount of money by looking after their loved ones in their home.
"When you break down the cost of what we are saving the State as carers on a weekly, monthly and yearly basis, it's huge. Full time nursing home care for my mother would cost €1,100 to €1,200 a week,” he said.
In response, the HSE's South East Community Healthcare (SECH) said the number of respite beds available at residential care facilities in Carrick-on-Suir, Cashel, Clogheen, Clonmel and Tipperary Town are within national norms.
"South East Community Healthcare has an excellent reputation across South Tipperary in tending to the healthcare needs of older persons, whether in residential, community or home based settings and does its best to meet increasing demands within the resources available to it," the statement concluded.
In relation to Mr Neill's comments, the HSE said it wasn't appropriate to comment on individual cases but they would be willing to arrange a meeting with the family.