Caring and Sharing December 1996

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It is so sad to watch some-one die but it is a part of life. Yet caring for the sick and the elderly is not something we are educated for. This is often a role that families find themselves thrust into almost overnight with little or no preparation either emotionally or with the skills needed for this task.

As the population of Ireland is aging there will be much more frail people in their eighties and nineties who will need care. To-date the burden of caring usually falls on one member of the Family while other members feel fearful, some feel inadequate and others excuse themselves from any form of responsibility.

Caring for someone over a number of years can be a very difficult task and the careers and patients need lots of support from family, friends and neighbours. No career should feel alone yet many feel a huge sense of isolation. Cases differ while no two patients are the same. For some it will mean mostly physical care, for others psychological care but more often than not it will be a combination of both. There are common problems that can be overcome with helpful hints from other careers and from more support groups at community level. The job can be tiring, infuriating, distressing and even humourous but never without a great sense of satisfaction and achievement.

Changes in the elderly sick can be very sudden and requirements and skills are constantly changing. Carers need a break and while it is undesirable and frightening for the cared-for person to be passed around, having no place to call their own, arrangements should be made among families so that the primary carer gets time off.

An outside facilitator could help families address these issues without fear or tension. Education is the key problem. We must educate people on the many different illnesses whether physical, mental or terminal, so that if called upon we will be able to act than re-act. Not everybody is a carer but we can all be supportive and helpful. Nobody wants to be a burden and nobody should.

‘We that are strong must bear the infirmities of the weak’

Helpful Reading:

‘Caring for Maria’ by Bernard Heywood,

‘Who Cares?’ by Catherine McCann, ‘The Calumba Press’

‘Caring for your Elderly’ by Julia Burton Jones

Family Carers Ireland

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About this record

Written by Anita Coffey (O'Regan)

Published here 12 Jan 2023 and originally published December 1996

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