Top young carer Niamh looks after her brother... and his dog




A teenager with a rare medical condition who minds her severely autistic younger brother and his assistance dog, Paddy, is Ireland’s Young Carer of the Year.

Niamh Duffy, 13, from Midleton, Co Cork, said minding her brother is “a little bit harder” because she suffers from arthritis in her leg and chronic recurrent osteomyelitis, a rare and deeply painful bone disease.

“I don’t mind looking after Finn because I know I make him happy. I even find it quite relaxing because it takes my mind off things,” Niamh said yesterday.

Her father, Liam, nominated her for the title for her consideration and very mature approach in providing care for Finn over the past four years.

Finn is a generally happy boy but he sometimes displays many challenging behaviours that cause stressful situations for the family.

Asked if she was grown up before her time because of her family responsibilities and illness she replied: “I suppose I might have matured a bit because of looking after Finn, but I am still a 13-year-old and I still like doing 13-year-old things.”

Niamh plays with Finn and bakes cookies with him — his favourites are chocolate ones.

She also looks after Finn’s best friend — his dog who, even at seven years old, needs to keep up his obedience training as well as being walked and groomed regularly.

Niamh is a first-year student at St Aloysius’ College, Carrigtwohill, Co Cork, where her favourite subjects are French and English. She enjoys doing drama at school and reading.

“Mary and I are delighted that the Carers Association has given Niamh the award. We are so proud of her,” said Liam.

“Because Finn’s autism affects his communication, he finds it hard to let us know what he needs so we need all the help we can get. Niamh is fantastic with him.”

The overall National Carer of the Year is Anne Curtin from Limerick City who provides full-time care to her husband, Michael, and son, Andrew. Anne, 70, has cared for Michael for the past nine years after a stroke seriously affected his mobility. She has been caring for her son Andrew, 30, since an accident left him in a wheelchair two years ago.

Andrew nominated his mum because of her “unbelievable selflessness and kindness” and the sacrifices she made when she became a dual carer.

Anne, a mother of four grown-up children, said she was terribly traumatised when her son, her youngest child, had the accident.

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