Máire-Anne Doyle's father, Brian, reached his 90th birthday during the Covid-19 crisis but it was a day like any other lately because of the public health restrictions.
Brian was diagnosed with vascular dementia six years ago and Máire-Anne, a former human resources recruitment specialist, is his full-time carer. She returned from Canada to Ireland almost five years ago to care for her father: “It's like living in Groundhog Day permanently these days but I'm carrying on as best I can," she said.
“Dad is a phenomenal man but his life is so much more restricted due to Covid-19 and he has constant questions. We no longer receive the daily hour of assistance from the HSE due to the worry of Covid-19."
Máire-Anne, a member of the Dementia Carers Network, is the eldest of a family of four from Blackrock, Dublin. Her sister and two brothers are married and work abroad.
The Covid-19 health crisis has put people like Máire-Anne under a lot of stress because they have nowhere to go and no respite from the relentless demands of caring: “Dad likes his newspaper and, like a lot of his generation turns to the death notices only to be shocked to see that it runs to three pages. I have to keep on explaining about the virus and why none of his family can visit us.”
It is National Carers' Week and the Alzheimers Society of Ireland says people such as Máire-Anne are Ireland's hidden heroes.
Máire-Anne says the ASI national helpline (1800 341 341) is invaluable during this challenging time because it can be used to book one-to-one sessions with a dementia nurse or advisor: “I do feel locked away with Dad but I do have wonderful friends and neighbours and I know that the ASI helpline is an incredible listening and support service for people like me.”
Executive director of Care Alliance Ireland, Liam O'Sullivan, says carers like Dympna Tully, from Roscommon, can hold their heads high as the lockdown measures are relaxed: “We now need to prioritise supporting them through more accessible home care and other essential supports that enable them to continue to care."
Dympna says her life changed overnight 10 years ago when she was just 26 years old. After her mother's untimely death she became her father's carer: “I can hold my head high and feel super proud of myself for all the sacrifices I made, while a lot would have given up by now, and I'm pretty sure Mammy is super proud up there.”