Almost half a million carers support family members who are frail, unwell, or have a long-term health condition or disability. The pandemic disrupted access to home care, respite, day programmes and other services, and family carers stepped up, providing intensive support for weeks with little outside help.
Carers NZ and the Carers Alliance of almost 50 national not for profits, including Alzheimers NZ, have shared carers’ experiences in a survey report, Caring In Lockdown: Forgotten families during Covid-19.
Released today, the report calls on the Government to improve support and respite for carers, and better recognise this large population in the work to follow the release of the New Zealand Health and Disability System Review report.
Carers NZ chief executive Laurie Hilsgen says the report highlights troubling impacts to carers’ own wellbeing, their ability to participate in paid employment, and systemic neglect that puts lives at risk during events such as Covid-19.
“We are lucky in New Zealand to have emerged from lockdown without more Covid cases. We have a chance to prepare better for future events by fixing some of the problems carers revealed in our survey.”
These included poor access to information to keep themselves and vulnerable family members safe; no information or access to Personal Protective Equipment until risk Level 2; sudden changes to key respite and funding supports that confused carers at a critical time; and poor information and coordination so carers could access breaks after weeks of caring as New Zealand emerged from Covid-19 lockdown.
Hilsgen says widespread cases of Covid-19 would quickly overwhelm the formal system.
“Carers have told us what would sustain them and the vulnerable people they support through an ongoing pandemic. We are working with the Government to address gaps carers identified in the report, and to help them plan ahead just in case.”
Alzheimers NZ Chief Executive and Co-Chair of the Alliance Catherine Hall, says that it was time that the enormous contribution of carers was recognised. “The Covid-19 lockdown demonstrated the critical role carers play. The findings of this survey make for disappointing reading, and show without question that we are not doing enough to provide the support carers need, including around respite care. We must do more and better.”