Home care for older travellers and older homeless adults is a fundamental right, study finds

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A study carried out by the Irish Centre for Social Gerontology has found that home support services for older Travellers and older homeless adults must be considered as a fundamental right.

It found that supports must be promoted as a viable and accessible support for these groups, regardless of their housing circumstances and where they live.

The study aimed to capture older Travellers’ and older homeless adults’ views and preferences for home care.

Highlighting a range of barriers in accessing home support services, it shows the potential for these groups to fall through the cracks in Ireland’s long-term and community care system.

Barriers can include communication and cultural issues, eligibility criteria, willingness to accept care, the suitability of environments for receiving care, and discrimination and stigma.

Speaking at the launch of the findings on Thursday, Professor Kieran Walsh, Director of the Irish Centre for Social Gerontology and lead investigator said, “There are a number of critical gaps evident in the care for older Travellers and older homeless adults, and in part, these stem from the structural disadvantages that both groups encounter in our communities, and society.

“While the gaps are reinforced by our failure to properly account for the needs of these populations in care provision, they impact not only individual older people, but also put significant pressure on families, charity organisations and primary and community care providers working with the groups.”

Dr Bridin Carroll, a member of the research team, added that the findings show that without the significant cross-sector efforts, particularly at grass-roots level, and the resilience of many older Traveller and older homeless individuals themselves, the welfare of these populations would be even more at risk.

“But this situation is really not sustainable. The research highlights that home care for these groups requires sensitivity to people’s individual circumstances, and the sorts of social exclusions they have faced,” said Dr Carroll.

“To secure better health outcomes for these populations, the research calls for home supports that are flexible, well-communicated, free of stigmatisation and discrimination, and that target both the instrumental provision of care and the enablement of individuals.”

Putting forward 20 recommendations for policy and practice on home care, the research calls for public, private and voluntary long-term care providers to develop care and support protocols targeting marginalised and diverse older populations, including older Travellers and older people who have experienced homelessness.

The research which was carried out by NUI Galway’s Irish Centre for Social Gerontology in conjunction with co-investigators from NUI Galway, Queen’s University Belfast, Newcastle University and University of Limerick.