Returning to Ireland to care for a family member
Becoming a carer can happen at any stage in life. If you are an Irish citizen living abroad and need to return to Ireland to care for a family member, or you are returning with a family member you are caring for, there are supports and services available in Ireland.
If you are returning with family member from outside the EEA, the UK or Switzerland, they will need permission to live in Ireland.
The Health Service Executive (HSE) delivers public health services in Ireland. You must be ordinarily resident in Ireland to access most HSE services at a free or reduced rate.
This page includes information on how to access community and home care services, tax and social welfare payments for carers and how to apply for financial support for nursing home care.
Caring for an older family member
If you are returning to Ireland to care for an older family member such as a parent, there are health services and schemes available to help.
Home Support Service
The Home Support Service provides help and support with everyday tasks to people aged 65 or over living at home. In some cases, people under 65 can access this service, for example, people with early onset dementia or a disability. The Home Support Service is free of charge and run by the HSE.
Depending on where you live, there may be a waiting list for home support services.
Applying from a hospital
If the person you are caring for is in hospital, they should ask the person dealing with their discharge plan for a Home Support Application Form. This person might be a nurse, a discharge coordinator or a social worker. They will help them to complete the application form and send it to their local HSE Home Support Office.
The HSE will then arrange a care needs assessment to see what support your family member needs.
They should apply as soon as possible during their hospital stay to avoid delays in their discharge home from hospital.
Applying from home
If the person you are caring for is living at home, they can apply for home support services themselves by sending a completed application form to their local HSE Home Support Office. You can find the application form at the end of the Home Support Information Booklet (pdf).
If they are unable to apply themselves, someone can apply for them. This can be their relative, family carer, GP or public health nurse. After the HSE receives the completed application form, they will arrange a care needs assessment.
Contact your local Home Support Office if you have any questions about your application.
Care needs assessment
The person you are caring for will need to complete a care needs assessment to access many public health services. The assessment looks at a person’s ability to look after themselves safely, for example:
- Personal hygiene
- Preparing meals
- Cleaning and caring for their home
They will then get a care plan which says what HSE services they need.
Nursing home care
If your family member needs nursing home care, they need to choose a nursing home that meets their needs. You can find a list of registered nursing homes on the HIQA website. The HSE also has a guide to choosing a nursing home (pdf).
If they need help paying for nursing home care, they can apply to the Nursing Home Support Scheme, also known as the Fair deal scheme. Under Fair Deal, they pay a certain amount towards the cost of their care and the HSE pays the rest. Fair Deal covers approved private nursing homes, voluntary nursing homes and public nursing homes.
They must be ordinarily resident in Ireland to qualify for the Fair Deal scheme. If the person who needs nursing home care has not yet returned to Ireland, contact Safe Home Ireland for information on applying for the Fair Deal scheme.
If they choose to pay for nursing home care privately, they must pay the full cost of the private nursing home directly.
Helping someone apply for the Fair Deal scheme
If you are helping someone with reduced decision-making capacity to apply for Fair Deal scheme, you need to be a specified person. A specified person can apply on behalf of a person needing care if they are unable to apply themselves.
Caring for a child with a disability
If your child has a disability, or you think they may have a disability, you should meet with your family doctor when you return to Ireland, (also known as a GP) or a public health nurse. They can help you to access the services your child needs. You can also make a referral yourself.
Read more information about caring for a child with a disability in Ireland.
Before returning to Ireland, ask your doctor for a copy of your child’s medical records, prescriptions for drugs and medicines and immunisation records. If you have been seeing a consultant or specialist in a hospital abroad, you should get a copy of your records sent to your GP in Ireland.
If you are not registered with a GP in Ireland, you can have these records transferred to your GP when you register with one.
Registering with a GP
You can find a GP in your local area on the HSE website. Sometimes GP practices have a full list of patients and cannot take on new patients. In this case, you should go to another GP practice in your area. You can transfer to the GP of your first choice at a later date if they start taking on new patients again.
Some GPs provide services only to private patients. You usually have to pay to see a GP as a private patient and fees can vary. You can see a GP free of charge if you have a medical card or a GP visit card.
You do not need a PPS number or other documentation to visit a GP.
Can I get a carer’s payment when I return to Ireland?
If you are returning to Ireland and caring for someone, you may be able to claim a social welfare payment. You must be habitually resident in Ireland to qualify for Carer’s Allowance.
Carer’s Allowance is a means tested payment for people who are caring for a person who needs support because of their age, disability or illness. You must be habitually resident to qualify for this payment.
Carer’s Benefit is a payment for people who leave work or reduce their hours to care for a person in need of full-time care. You must be under 66 and have paid enough social insurance (PRSI) contributions.
If you paid social insurance in another EU member state or the UK, this may be used to meet the contribution rules for Carer’s Benefit. But your most recent social insurance contribution must be paid in Ireland.
You may qualify for an annual Carer's Support Grant. This payment is not means tested and you do not need to meet the habitual residence condition to qualify. You must provide care for at least 6 months to qualify for this payment, and this period must include the first Thursday in June.
If your child is aged under 16 and has a severe disability, you may qualify for Domiciliary Care Allowance (DCA). The child must need ongoing care and attention, substantially more than is usually needed by a child of the same age. It is not means tested.
Tax credits and reliefs
Tax credits reduce the amount of income tax you pay. Tax reliefs reduce the amount of income on which you pay income tax.
You can claim tax relief on medical expenses and there are a number of tax credits and reliefs for people with disabilities. There are also social welfare benefits for people who are sick or have a disability.
Further information and useful contacts
Your Local Health Office or Public Health Nurse can help you to access public health services in your area.
Our Guide to entitlements for older people (pdf) has detailed information on other services and supports available for older people.
You can also read about:
- Assessment of need for people with disabilities
- Housing grants and schemes
- Ward of Court
- Disabled Person's Parking Card
There are many carers groups across Ireland. Ask in your local health centre for information on groups in your area. Family Carers Ireland also run support groups for carers in Ireland.