A young carer beamed with pride yesterday when she was honoured for looking after her younger brother who has intellectual disabilities and behavioural issues.
Alannah Donnelly, 16, from Kinnitty, Co Offaly, minds Conor, 13, keeping him calm and amused.
“I am the Young Carer of the Year for Leinster. There is just Conor and me, and I am really delighted I got the award because there are so many other young people doing amazing things,” said Alannah.
“Conor is a really bubbly boy. He has a great personality. His speech is great, so he can tell me what he wants.
“But his behaviour can be very unpredictable. If he is having a bad day, he can be quite aggressive, and he is very strong. So it can be tough sometimes. Once he gets in a bad mood, you just have to wait it out until it is over.”
Alannah is conscious that she does not have the freedom other teenagers have.
“I cannot be spontaneous and walk out the door to see my friends.
”Everything has to be arranged.
“So if I want to go to my friend’s house after school there has to be someone to take care of Conor. Sometimes it is a bit frustrating.
“I know everyone else has problems, so I deal with mine as they come to me.”
Alannah’s mother, Clare, a single mother, nominated her daughter for the award. She describes Alannah as an exceptional person and feels that her caring role has given her huge strength, resilience, and empathy.
The Munster Carer of the year is Jack Cooney, 10, from Clonmel, Co Tipperary. He cares for his brother, James, 16, who has cerebral palsy, is a wheelchair user, and needs round-the-clock care.
Jack’s parents, Linda McCarthy and James Cooney, said he was just two-years-old when he first started caring for his brother. They have video footage of Jack as a toddler pushing James in his wheelchair.
Jack helps James with his daily routines and with outdoor activities. He reads to James every night too.
Young carer development manager with Family Carers Ireland, Padraig McGrath is responsible for supporting young carers across Ireland.
“There are young carers who provide a high level of care. Often they are the primary carer, and my job is to ensure they do not get burnt out,” he said.
He works with the different agencies to ensure adequate supports are in place to ensure young carers are not over-burdened and that the level of care is age appropriate.
The Central Statistics Office indicates the number of young carers under the age of 15 at about 3,800 but Family Carers Ireland believes the figure is far higher.
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