A selfless daughter who took her parents into her home to care for them full time is Ireland’s Carer of the Year.
Paula Robinson, from Cootehill, Co Cavan, cares for her mother, Mary, 84, who has Alzheimer’s disease, and her dad, Jimmy, 92, who is living with bowel cancer.
Paula, 48, sleeps in a room with her mother to ensure her safety, hand-feeds her every meal, and is up numerous times each night to meet the needs of her parents.
At a ceremony in Dublin yesterday, Paula was presented with her award by Marty Whelan and Mary Kennedy, both patrons of Family Carers Ireland.
Paula has four sisters who live abroad in the US and UK. She has been her parents’ primary carer for eight years while also raising her two children, aged 21 and 14. Her husband, John, has to work away from home a lot.
Her sisters and extended family nominated her for the award as a way of thanking her for all she does. Her family describe her as an amazing woman who always puts others first and has a very positive outlook on life.
“I could not have looked after my parents without John, who is so laid back. He let my mum and dad come into our home,” said Paula.
She explained that her parents, who are originally from Ireland, moved to Coventry where they raised their family.
“Mum’s dementia was getting worse so we had to make a decision on what to do. We could not leave them in Coventry. I had one sister over there but she just had a child.
“I had a house that could fit them all in so we just decided that I would take them. We asked dad whether he would like to come and he said ‘yes’.
“Mum has been in bed for the last month — her hips are gone, and she has other problems, but she remains quite pleasant.”
Her father, said Paula, is also confined to bed.
Paula said she would be making the most of Christmas, but it would mark another change in her caring role. “This will be the first Christmas that mum and dad won’t be sitting at the table with us.”
She said it was an “honour” to look after her parents and, although her sisters lived far away, they were always at the end of the phone.
“The people who live in Cootehill are just lovely too. They are really like a family and the carers who come in to look after my parents are the best.”
Cork Carer of the Year is Martin Nevin, from Clonakilty. He was nominated by his wife, Evie, who has Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.
Their two children, Alexander, 8, and Olivia, 2, are also living with the rare and debilitating condition.
Martin said home life could be tough and stressful at times, but he did his best to do what was expected of a father, husband, and carer.
Evie, a former journalist, said she nominated Martin because he was so good to her and their children.
“I did not tell him I had nominated him until he won the award. It was funny to see how taken aback he was. I just wanted him to have a bit of pride as well in what he does because it is a hard job and he is just so amazing,” she said.
Asked how they will spend Christmas, Evie said she would try to help out with cooking but making that extra special effort was bound to leave her drained.
“I will be bedridden for a couple of weeks after Christmas but it is generally a relaxed occasion on the big day once everything is prepped.”
Catherine Cox from Family Carers Ireland said the awards recognise the huge contribution of family carers. She said: “There are no winners or losers here. It really is about one person becoming an ambassador for all the other carers — the 360,000 out there who are providing care every day.”
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