Friday, March 1st saw 250 family carers descend on Salthill, Co. Galway for the National Respite Weekend. The annual event organised by Family Carers Ireland is not only an opportunity for family carers to kick back, relax and get some well-deserved pampering but also allows them to catch up with familiar faces, share stories and make new friends.
Buses, taxis and cars galore rolled up outside the award winning, four star Galway Bay Hotel and although the weather was a little on the wet side, the hotel filled up quickly with laughter and chat. Guests were treated to tea and scones on arrival and a fantastic goodie bag sponsored by totalhealth Pharmacy along with some Leonida’s chocolates and magazines.
Day one’s activities had something for everyone. The Library was full of movie buffs chilling out to cinema classic Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Chair yoga and breathing exercises proved extremely popular for many and for those who felt a little more energetic, there was aqua aerobics and use of the leisure centre for the day.
The weekend was officially opened with an address by Galway Mayor Niall McNelis who warmly welcomed everyone and spoke of the selfless work of family carers. This was followed by a delicious four course meal with live music for everyone to enjoy in The Atlantic Bar.
Although guests awoke to another rainy day on Saturday, spirits were not dampened as they made their way down to the trade exhibition area where they mingled with local exhibitors who sold everything from pictures and homemade cards to creams and aromatherapy oils. And of course there was the resident stand manned by Family Carers Ireland giving expert advice on a range of issues related to family caring.
Relaxation was the order of the morning for more than 150 ladies who got their nails painted ahead of the evening’s events and as nails dried, many filed into the room next door to avail of a hand massage provided by the Irish Red Cross, to whom we are very thankful.
For those with a pep in their step there was Zumba (which generated some great giggles) and use of the leisure centre for a second day. As the sun made an appearance later in the day, more than 20 guests took in a walking tour of the city while others decided to blow off the cobwebs with a stroll on the windy Salthill Promenade.
The highlight of the weekend – the gala night – opened with a drinks reception in the hotel foyer and a special performance by renowned composer David Brophy and around 40 men and women in the ‘Choir of Carers’ who made the long journey from the Sunny South East and drew a standing ovation for their take on classics including Imagine, Something Inside So Strong and Let It Be. The songs were specially chosen by David to draw attention to the resilience, challenges, pride and unity of family carers. The choir will feature in an upcoming RTÉ series.
Following the Gala dinner, a DJ had guests dancing late into the night with classics from the likes of Joe Dolan and Tina Turner and rumour has it that many stayed up well into the early hours with their own mini choir and a good old fashioned sing-song!
Sunday as always was a more-low key affair with family carers rising for yet another delicious full Irish breakfast and a final catch-up with friends before hitting the road home.
The National Respite Weekend is a highlight in many family carers’ calendars. Not only do they get a chance to take time out from a stressful and demanding caring role, they also come together to talk, to laugh and to feel supported by their peers who understand only too well what you are going through. For those who have yet to experience the weekend, we would strongly encourage you to join us next year!
A special thanks to everyone who made the weekend such a success particularly Marian Mahon, Judith Leeshue and Jenny Mahon who worked tirelessly for months to ensure that those in attendance had the best time possible.