Sunday, 19th November 2017
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A caring nation

One of the most surprising statistics released in the latest round of numbers by the Central Statistics Office was the fact that there are almost 340 million hours of unpaid work in caring for ill and elderly members of family done every year in Ireland. Everyone should know that the health system in the country wouldn't survive if there weren't so many people doing such trojan work on behalf of others at all times of the day and all for no monetary reward at all.

The CSO also went on to name the largest category of people who do all of this work and it is mainly middle aged women again showing that they are the lynchpin of modern Irish families. Many have their own families to care for as well as holding down jobs but that doesn't mean that they don't take on the extra responsibility of minding and taking care of those who are most vulnerable in their larger families.

If you ask people from around the world what makes their society unique or special they will tell you that it is their emphasis on looking after their family. But it isn't that unique even though it is special, as it is nearly every society in the world that looks after their families as best as they can. And it is through looking after their families that they sacrifice the time that they could be spending on themselves although they probably wouldn't ever think about it like that because that isn't in the mindset of a carer. Something has to be done so they get on and do it. It is that no nonsense attitude that is so refreshing and something that is great to see in action.

There is a problem though that it might lead to burn out and there is only so much that one person, as a carer, can do so that is why it is never a good thing to overlook what they are doing. Doing so many millions of hours in unpaid work might be a good thing and it might be letting the government off the hook in a big way but it doesn't mean that it is right or that carers shouldn't be recompensed in some way whether it is as a form of direct payment or even as respite care to give the carer some much needed time for themselves.

Carers do some tremendous work and for the most part it is unseen and as the saying goes out of sight out of mind. But when you get statistics like the one from the CSO you can't really ignore it and hope that it goes away. It is a huge number of hours that represents tens of thousands of individual stories that are never heard and that is not a good thing. Just because we think that we know what goes on in the world of a carer doesn't mean that we really know and we shouldn't presume. It is highly valuable work and should be treated as such.

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