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IHF calls for more supports for family care givers

IHF recommends support family care givers

Thursday April 30, 2020

Data shows increase in non-Covid-19 deaths

The Irish Hospice Foundation is today calling for an increased package of supports for family care-givers providing end-of-life care at home. The call coincides with the publication of new analysis from the Foundation which shows a week-to-week excess death rate of non-Covid-19 deaths in the last 6 weeks, since restrictions on movement were put in place.

The analysis of the number of deaths reported (excluding those reported as Covid-19 related) during March and April show unusual increases in some weeks – up to 23.5% – when compared to the same period in 2019. This pattern reflects trends seen in Italy and other places. The Foundation says the figures could be evidence that people may not recognise the signs of end of life and therefore are not seeking services provided by GPs, specialist palliative care teams and Emergency Departments during the crisis.

Surveys have shown that as many as 75% of people would like to die at home, but less than 25% of people do. The Irish Hospice Foundation has long campaigned for services and supports to be in place to enable more people to die at home if they wish to do so. The presence of a family carer has been shown to be essential to good end of life care in the home.

Sharon Foley, CEO of the Irish Hospice Foundation said:

“It is important to remember that even during this Covid-19 crisis, services are available to people in the community – GPs and specialist palliative care continues to be available to patients and their families, even if it is just over the phone. With the correct supports and interventions, people can still experience a good end of life with quality care at this time. We also know that because of the restriction on home supports, and a concern about attending inpatient settings, many carers are experiencing little respite during Covid-19 which is particularly challenging if their loved one is nearing end of life.

We have seen an approximate 20% increase in our Nurses for Night Care service as families dealing with the imminent death of a loved one at home need more supports during the night. We welcome the additional funding provided this year but call on this State funding to be sustained beyond 2020 to at least 50%.”


The key supports and services the Irish Hospice Foundation is calling for at this time are:

  • Sustained commitment to 50%+ State funding for the Nurses for Night Care service;
  • More supports for GPs and Public Health Nurses in the provision of end-of-life and palliative care and assistance to family carers;
  • Ensure the restoration of respite care and other services (as soon as public health advice deems it safe to do so).
  • Establish a statutory home care scheme to enable more people to remain at home towards end of life, regardless of whether there is a family carer in place. The provision of a statutory home care scheme to be considered by political parties in the formation of Government talks; and
  • Appropriate training for family carers providing basic palliative and end-of-life care in the home.

The Irish Hospice Foundation has already produced a new resource – ‘Caring for someone nearing end of life at home during the Covid-19 crisis’, as part of their Care & Inform online resource hub. This resource supports and complements the HSE resources for supporting someone at end of life.

Professor Susan O’Reilly, Irish Hospice Foundation Board member said:

“The more we support delivery of care at home, the better we address the needs of patients, their family caregivers and professional staff. This approach will support the wishes of many patients to be kept comfortable at home, reduce the stress on families and simultaneously reduce the burden on hospices, care homes and hospitals”.


Data analysis

The Irish Hospice Foundation conducted an analysis of deaths as reported by in March and April 2019 and 2020, in conjunction with COVID-19 deaths announced by the HSE. This data is the most accurate real-time available reporting of deaths in Ireland, although it does not capture 100% of deaths.