Family caring plays an essential role in Ireland’s health system, but it does place social, financial, physical, and emotional demands on carers. Caring by older people has been shown to have benefits for health and longevity when providing lower numbers of hours of care. Less is known however, about why some carers seem to manage better than others in their long-term well-being.

Dr Christine McGarrigle, Senior Research Fellow, The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA) has recently been awarded a Health Research Charities Ireland – Health Research Board (HRCI-HRB) Joint Funding Scheme award to examine patterns of mental health and well-being in adult carers as they transition into and out of caring responsibilities. Additionally, Christine and her team will explore the importance of resilience and social and formal care service supports, using data from TILDA collected during the COVID-19 pandemic. The research team will then be able to understand how the pandemic and its associated restrictions on social interactions and formal care such as home support services may have affected family carers.

The research project: Counting the cost: The contribution of older carers in Ireland and impact of caring on health and well-being of carers will involve collaboration with the charity Family Carers Ireland, a registered charity, offering a range of support and services to Ireland's family carers.

Since 2006, HRCI and the Health Research Board (HRB) have collaborated to run a ‘Joint Funding Scheme’. Through this unique scheme, HRCI member charities can secure matched funding for research of importance to the people they represent, through a competitive process.

Explaining the background to the project, Dr McGarrigle said: Our carers matter, and maintaining their health and well-being matters so that they can continue to provide care is of immeasurable value to family members and wider society.

She believes that a greater understanding of why some carers manage their well-being better than others will allow us to inform policy- and decision-makers about what supports are needed for carers and how services and programmes can be strengthened to best support older carers.

The research outcomes will inform the priorities for social and community-level services and supports for carers and aid in the design of new projects and programs to meet these needs. This will enable carers to continue caring while maintaining their own mental health and well-being.

Looking ahead, Dr McGarrigle said:

This study allows us to work closely with family carer advocates to ensure that policy can be informed through an evidence-base derived from a nationally representative study and contextualised with the lived experience of carers.

The collaborators on this project include: Dr Mark Ward, Co-applicant, TILDA, Professor Rose Anne Kenny, Co-applicant, TILDA, Dr Nikki Dunne, Family Carers Ireland, collaborator and Steering Group member and Claire Devlin, PPI representative and Steering Group member.

Tilda Team Awarded

Photo caption: Left to right, Dr Mark Ward, The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA), Claire Devlin, PPI representative, Dr Nikki Dunne, Family Carers Ireland and Dr Christine McGarrigle, Senior Research Fellow, School of Medicine, Trinity College Dublin & The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA)