Protest over carers' crisis: 'I don't feel I'm allowed be a parent to all three of my children'

Brigid Flanagan is a family carer but she also wants to be a mother to her three children, something that is impossible because of her youngest child's severe health problems.

Protest over carers' crisis: 'I don't feel I'm allowed be a parent to all three of my children'

Brigid Flanagan is a family carer but she also wants to be a mother to her three children, something that is impossible because of her youngest child's severe health problems.

Brigid, from Termonfeckin, Co Louth, joined other family carers outside Leinster House to demonstrate how they feel trapped and that the Government does not recognise their contribution or struggle.

Brigid's youngest son, Richard, 10, was born with a life-limiting condition that has never been diagnosed despite numerous tests. The little boy is tube-fed. He has no swallow so he is at risk of aspirating his saliva.

She said:

When Richard was born his life expectancy was just three days. He is now ten years old and that is due to the care he is getting at home.

Brigid, who used to work as a clinical nurse manager at the Mater Hospital in Dublin, left her job to care for Callum, 14, who suffered a brain injury at birth.

“Callum is doing very well now. He has anxiety issues and dyslexia but other than that he is fantastic," she said.

Her daughter, Anna, 12, has quite severe dyspraxia, dyslexia and a sensory processing disorder.

“I am a nurse for my youngest son, Richard and I don't feel I am being allowed to be a parent to all three of my children,” said Brigid.

She said she was expected to be the nurse when carers were provided to help her cope with Richard at home.

Now, ten years on, the HSE has agreed to provide nursing care for Callum but it still falls short of what is needed and Brigid has to cover three or four nights a week.

“I am left absolutely exhausted and it is making it very difficult for me to be a parent and to be available to any of my children."

Brigid said Richard just wants to do what everybody else is doing. “He is very determined and wants to be a fireman when he is older. He has already planned his wedding – he is going to marry a little girl on his school bus who lives locally.

“He loves animals and swimming. He has lots of curly hair because he does not want it cut. He is in a wheelchair a lot of the time but has started walking now.”

Brigid said she keeps going because she knows she has to be there for her children and she loves them.

But it is very, very hard. There are times when I have just cried and thought how am I going to keep doing this. I allow myself to cry and then pick myself up and keep going.

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Regina Doherty, admitted that the services “were not brilliant” when she met the family carers who took turns inside a cage outside the Dáil to demonstrate their plight.

She said she was there to listen to their concerns but pointed out that the items that had been asked of her, except for the reform of the means test, were delivered in the budget.

The minister suggested that they look at the Citizen's Assembly agreeing on a plan that could be implemented over the next five years by whoever was in power then.

She argued that it is not down to just one minister and there is only so much she can do on her own.

Head of communications with Family Carers Ireland, Catherine Cox, said there were currently 7,500 families on a waiting list for home care and the Government had to do more to address that.

“We recognise Brexit is here and it is a difficult time for the country but there is a crisis in-home care," said Ms Cox.

"The Government have family carers in a box. They think they've ticked the box with this budget - well they didn't."

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