SDLP Health Spokesperson Mark H Durkan MLA met with Marie Curie NI this week to discuss the strain placed on older people who are caring for a terminally ill loved one in Northern Ireland.
A report published by Marie Curie in conjunction with Carers NI, has highlighted the detrimental impact this responsibility has on an older person’s physical and mental health, pushing many to breaking point. Mr Durkan said the invaluable nature of such carers must not be ‘taken for granted.’
The MLA for Foyle commented: “For any one taking on a carer’s role is a huge commitment- it requires 24/7 work which can be physically and mentally exhausting. Unfortunately, due to an increasing ageing population, more and more older people are finding themselves caring for terminally ill loved ones.
“After meeting with Marie Curie NI, I find it very worrying that many elderly carers are putting their own physical and mental health on the line- often pushing themselves to breaking point. Carers save the public purse an immeasurable amount of money but are often taken for granted- the reality remains that our health service could not cope without their vital contribution.
“They are an invaluable resource within our communities and that must be reflected in support services and resources. Coming to terms with a loved one’s terminal illness is a challenge in itself- leaving many people feeling isolated and depressed. We must remember that often older carers find themselves forced into a caring role perhaps with no prior experience; lacking information and details of available support or respite services.
“You can’t pour from an empty cup, carers must look after themselves first and foremost. But in order to do this there must be a more concerted approach among agencies to ensure the needs of both carer and their loved ones, are being met.
“As a matter of urgency, we must increase investment in the care of carers; for respite services, access to practical help, financial support and in maintaining links with the community. We owe it to our older carers, to ease the burden of their situation in any way possible.”