Dorothy Meaney, who provides full time care to her 31-year-old daughter who has a syndrome that can’t be treated in this country, was unable to attend the awards because of her mother’s funeral.
Dorothy, from Dooradoyle Co Limerick, looks after Zondra who has Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which damages all of the body’s internal systems. Dorothy gave up work to look after Zondra and Zondra’s 9-year-old son.
As her own mother’s health deteriorated, she also looked after her. Every 12 weeks, she travels to the UK with her daughter so that Zondra can receive specialist medical care.
This year, for the first time, four regional Young Carers of the Year were chosen:
- Craig McSweeney, 16, was Munster Young Carer of the Year;
- Sean Collins, 13, was Ulster/Connaught Young Carer of the Year;
- Seunfunmi Solanke, 16, was Leinster Young Carer of the Year;
- Úna McNicholas, 17, was Dublin Young Carer of the Year.
Craig McSweeney, from Wilton, Cork City, is a fourth-year student at Coláiste an Spioraid Naomh. He said he was delighted with his award but that caring for his brother Cillian was “a team effort”.
Cillian is 26 and has cerebral palsy that has left him severely disabled. He communicates using his eyes and via specialist software that allows him to use a computer to converse with others.
“My brothers are at work and college so I do help out my mum, since my dad died last year, as I’m at home more. But they all help out, it’s what we’re used to. It’s a team effort in our house and we just get on with it,” said Craig.
His mum, Angela, described her youngest son as “her right arm” since her husband passed.
Three quarters of the people who were nominated for the carer’s award were women. One third were aged 65 or older and half had been caring for 10 years or more.
Speaking at the awards, Catherine Cox, head of communications at Family Carers Ireland, said: “Carers are invaluable to our society, and they contribute around 6.2m hours of unpaid care each week, saving the State €4bn each year.
“Being a carer means you almost always put the needs of others before yours, and at times it requires 24-hour support, there is no such thing as being off duty.
“Once again we noticed a strong trend where carers find themselves ‘sandwiched’ in the caring role; this is where they are caring for not just one but sometimes two or more family members.
“We also saw that in the case of many carers they have a long history of caring, with over half of the winners providing care for 10 years and some providing care for 40 years or more.
“We also noticed that a high percentage of carers are caring for loved ones with rare disorders, and this in itself presents many challenges in terms of accessing information and supports on their condition, not to mention treatments.”