Readers may recall my November 14th column which highlighted the plight of those caring for loved ones in their homes across the city and county.
I was prompted into action that week following a stark, moving presentation that the Waterford Carers’ Association had made at the monthly meeting of Waterford City Council.
Hand on heart, the upsetting case studies provided that night at City Hall stopped me in my tracks.
Without re-typing too much of what I uttered here three weeks ago, the carers’ central concern was sourced in the Government’s failure to implement the National Carers Strategy.
The current administration’s stasis when it comes to affording greater recognition to carers and alleviating their load somewhat by lifting some of the financial strain many face is a disgrace. It’s shameful. It’s abhorrent. It’s a stain on all whom purport to govern.
In a news cycle dominated by who paid for Mary Harney’s blow-dry, FAS’s over-enthusiastic interest in the NASA space programme and those floundering folks in suits once regarded as financial experts, the carers are largely forgotten.
That’s why ‘The Tubridy Show’ on Monday and Tuesday this week proved welcome – highlighting as it did the difficult reality that carers face hour in, hour out, every day of the year.
To give Ryan Tubridy his dues, the role played by carers is a theme that his radio programme has regularly returned to in recent years: now that’s what I call public service broadcasting.
And if the media consistently underlines the remarkable job that men and women the country over are ceaselessly committed to, maybe the powers that be may be guilted into action.
A few weeks ago, I paid a visit to the Waterford Carers Resource Centre on Grattan Quay, where manager Nuncie Murphy offered a telling observation when it comes to the level of caring in Waterford alone.
“It’s worth pointing out that we’re not exactly sure just how many carers there are, both here in the city and across the county,” said Nuncie.
“Not everyone who performs the role of carer in Waterford has made themselves known to the Carers Association.
“Without any doubt, there are people out there who don’t see themselves as carers, even though they’re performing caring duties all year round.”
Building a database of carers in Waterford is a key element of the work that Nuncie and her colleagues are committed to, and that important work is ongoing.
“The isolation that many carers experience is not known. That’s why this centre and the other centres we operate across the country [including Clonmel, Kilkenny and Wexford] are so important.
“Carers should feel comfortable walking through our doors. This is a place where they can pull up a chair, have a cuppa and talk freely about the issues they have to deal with.”
Recent research undertaken by the Irish College of Psychiatrists revealed that 20 per cent of 2,000 surveyed carers have been diagnosed with depression. Of those diagnosed, some 68 per cent stated that their depression has worsened due to their role as a carer.
In response to the survey’s findings, Carers Association Chief Executive Enda Egan spoke of carers being “literally house-bound, often feeling completely overwhelmed, isolated and alone”.
It prompted his calling for the introduction of a needs assessment, which should take carers’ health and well-being into account, as well as their practical care needs, respite breaks and training requirements.
Mr Egan re-iterated, with haste, the need to fully implement the National Carers Strategy.
Carers in Waterford ought not to feel alone, as the Carers Association is ready, willing and able to help as best it can.
But the Government must, at long last, formally and adequately recognise and value the magnificent role performed by carers. That they’ve not adequately done so yet is a national disgrace.
* The Waterford Carers Association resource centre is located at 2 Grattan Quay and can be contacted at (Tel) 051-857970, (Fax) 051-857937 or firstname.lastname@example.org.