The role of a carer is to provide comprehensive care to people who need assistance due to old age, illness or disability. In Ireland, where there are almost 200,000 carers, the Health Service Executive has recognised the positive impact they have on society.
Many elderly people are dependent on a carer, and they are often a family member, relative or friend. If you find yourself in a position where you are providing care to a senior, here is some advice that will help direct your approach.
Draw up a care plan
A well-designed care plan can be used as a guide to address the needs of your elderly relative or friend. It is also useful for establishing a daily routine that can be tailored to the person you are caring for, and it may even indicate whether you will need any extra help to protect their health and safety. Your care plan should take account of the following issues.
1. Basic needs
Often, seniors can have difficulty remembering things, which makes simple daily activities challenging. One of the first things you should do is determine whether your loved one needs assistance with everyday tasks such as:
- Going to the bathroom
2. Medical needs and monitoring
Supporting the health and wellbeing of your senior loved one is a significant responsibility. You may have to:
- Manage their medical appointments and medications
- Understand their chronic conditions and how they react to their drugs
- Ensure that they take the prescribed dosage and at the right time
It is usually a good idea to create a reminder system whereby you can monitor your loved one’s medicine intake to reduce the risk of overdosing. You may also need to have regular meetings with their doctor.
Maintaining a home can be a challenge for the elderly and they may therefore require some help with their daily chores, such as:
- Washing the dishes
- Taking the bins out
- Cleaning the house (e.g., vacuuming)
If your loved one is no longer capable of keeping their home clean and tidy, even with your assistance, it may be prudent to ask for support from a senior living community.
4. Mobility and transportation
As the elderly often have mobility issues – for example, they might struggle to get out of bed – you may have to accept responsibility for ensuring their home is ‘accident-proofed’ to prevent falls.
You may also need to arrange for a senior transport service to get them around as they may no longer be able to drive or use public transport.
Communicate effectively with healthcare professionals
According to this article, you are more likely to deal with the HSE than private health providers. The HSE is responsible for the smooth running of the Irish public health service.
Once you have arranged an appointment with a health professional, you need to:
- Make a note of their details (name, title, role and contact information)
- Choose a primary contact person if there is more than one designated carer
- Accompany your loved one to the appointment (if possible and with their consent)
- Make a list of some relevant questions that you need to ask
- Request written information, particularly regarding diagnoses and medication
Utilise the HSE’s support and services
The HSE can also offer resources that will make your care tasks even easier.
1. Community services
If your elderly dependent is staying in their own home, you can ask for assistance from the Community Health Organisations. In Ireland, the CHO supports both family carers and informal carers. Its Primary Care Teams comprise a variety of healthcare professionals, including:
- Family doctors
- Occupational therapists
- Public health nurses
- Speech and language therapists
The CHO also runs an older persons service that can provide:
- Day care
- Home help
- Homecare packages
- Meals on wheels
- Residential services
In addition, other support is available in the form of respite, short-stay and long-stay care. You can contact the CHO via your local health centre.
2. Home support
The HSE has a Home Support Service that enables the elderly to remain in their own home. Assistance can be provided for daily chores such as:
- Dressing and undressing
- Getting up and going to bed
- Personal grooming, including bathing, shaving etc.
The support offered will depend on the individual’s specific requirements.
3. Day care centres
The HSE funds organisations that offer day care, meals on wheels, personal care and social activities. Some centres will cater for people with specific conditions, such as dementia. If you think you need their assistance, contact a public health nurse or your local health service.
As a carer, you are providing a vital service to an elderly relative or friend. If this is your first time caring for someone, you will need to draw up a plan that is tailored to their needs. You must also consider how you are going to safeguard their health and safety. For instance, you may need to set reminders regarding their medication. Remember, the HSE is there to support you and can provide you with various essential services to make your task easier. Ireland’s public health system can also give you access to local community services, home support and day care centres.
- Alzheimer's and Dementia
- Dental Health
- Elder Abuse
- Entitlements for Older People
- Expert Interviews
- Eye Problems
- Heart Health
- Hip Problems
- Home Care
- Multigenerational housing
- Nursing Homes