The National CarePlus Carer of the Year 2018 Awards have taken place today [23.11.18] in a special ceremony in The Westin Hotel presented by broadcasters and patrons of Family Carers Ireland, Marty Whelan and Mary Kennedy. Twenty-seven family carers from across Ireland were recognised for their dedication and the many sacrifices made in their caring roles. Mrs Brown’s Boys stars Danny O’Carroll and Paddy Houlihan were also in attendance on the day as they took on ambassador roles with the organisation.
Brenda O’Connell-Barry (pictured above) from Charleville, County Cork was announced as the overall CarePlus Carer of the Year and the caring roles of five regional Young Carers of the Year were also highlighted.
Brenda and her husband Trevor care for their young son Fionn (4) who has NACC1, a rare genetic mutational condition. Fionn is the only known person in Europe with this diagnosis. Having become extremely ill at three months old, Fionn spent the first two years of his life in and out of hospital. He stopped feeding and would cry for 20 hours a day in excruciating pain, leading to a nasal gastro tube and peg feeding.
Brenda and Trevor refuse to give up hope for a day when Fionn doesn’t suffer. Brenda has a highly debilitating illness called Systemic Lupus and has undergone chemotherapy treatment to alleviate the pain. She also cares for her mother who has recently had a cancer diagnosis. Despite all of this, Brenda managed to fundraise locally to adapt their home in order to make it suitable for providing 24/7 care for Fionn.
Catherine Cox, Head of Communications and Carer Engagement said:
“We are thrilled to announce Brenda as our National Careplus Carer of the Year 2018 today. Brenda will be a fantastic ambassador for the 355,000 family carers across Ireland. These awards serve to highlight the work of Ireland’s hidden army and give them the recognition they deserve, particularly the five young carers who received awards today. This is our 12th year running these awards and our message is unfortunately still the same – family carers are continuing to prop up an inadequate health system at a high personal cost physically, emotionally and financially.”
Niamh Lynch, Commercial Director of CarePlus Pharmacy commented:
“We are delighted to support Family Carers Ireland in recognising and celebrating carers for the second year through the CarePlus Carer of the Year Awards. Our pharmacists meet carers in their communities every day and we are constantly in awe of the enormous sacrifices they make. We offer a huge congratulations to Brenda and the five inspirational young carers who have been awarded today for their commitment and contribution.”
Family carers in Ireland provide 45 hours of unpaid-for care per week in their homes saving the state €10 billion every year. Today one in 10 people provide care for a loved one in the home; by 2030 demographic changes predict that one in five people will take on a caring role.
The CarePlus Young Carers of the Year 2018 are:
Harry (13) and Molly (11) Flynn (pictured below back left and front right) are from Ferrybank on the Waterford/Kilkenny border and are siblings to Isabelle Flynn. Isabelle has Cerebral Palsy and Apnoea which causes her to stop breathing. The Flynn family were told she would never walk, talk or have the use of her hands or legs but through Harry and Molly’s constant attention and support they have taught her how to sit up, crawl, to hold a spoon and feed herself. They have also saved her life on numerous occasions by performing CPR when she stopped breathing on a bouncy castle, at the beach and in a shopping trolley.
Sean Ryan (10) (pictured below front left) from Portlaoise, County Laois helps to care for his twin brother Liam. He has severe Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy and as a result is a full-time wheelchair user. He also has many other complex medical needs. Sean helps by bringing Liam’s feed to his mother Niamh, getting a clean bib and stopping Liam’s feed tube when it’s finished. The twins have a really strong bond and Sean knows the signs when Liam is getting upset or is feeling unwell. He is great at educating his friends about Liam’s condition. He recently raised €675 for Laura Lynn Children’s Hospice to say thanks for their support to his family.
Alanna Connolly (17) (pictured below back right) is from Athenry, County Galway and helps to care for her twin sister Leah who was born with an undiagnosed rare syndrome. At birth, doctors told the family they did not know what the future held for Leah, whether she would ever walk, talk or her life expectancy. From day one, Leah had Alanna to help her grow stronger and to support her when learning new things. Their mother Dawn nominated Alanna to say thank you to her for her patience and kindness over the last 17 years through some difficult times.
Shauna Tighe (14) (pictured below back centre) is from Tallaght, County Dublin and she helps to care for her brother Daniel (11) who has a rare genetic condition called Sotos Syndrome. This condition causes severe intellectual disability, epilepsy and a sensory processing disorder. Daniel is non-verbal, incontinent and visually impaired with challenging behaviour and feeding difficulties. Shauna helps out with bathing, feeding and helping to get Daniel up and down the stairs. Daniel wakes at 3am most nights and Shauna will often get up and help her mother with him as he requires two people to care for him due to his size and behavioural difficulties. She often takes over household chores such as ironing and cleaning dishes when her parents are busy with Daniel. Shauna has been helping to care for Daniel since she was just six years of age.
Catherine Cox added:
“A common theme this year amongst nominations was that of rare diseases which can further complicate the levels of care needed. We need urgent investment in homecare and respite to support family carers or many will be forced to down tools which will result in a far greater cost on the state. Caring must be a shared role with state and once again, we urge the Government to recognise family carers as equal partners in care planning by health and social service providers, particularly when it comes to caring for a loved one with a rare disease, as solutions need to be tailored for each individual.”
Family Carers Ireland provides a range of supports and services for family carers across its 26 nationwide resource centre along with offering Ireland’s only dedicated range of supports for young carers, see www.youngcarers.ie.