'Caring is an isolated job, it is 24/7 and it is lonely'

National Carers Week June 13 - 19

'Caring is an isolated job, it is 24/7 and it is lonely'
Fiona Heavey fiona.heavey@leitrimobserver.ie @LeitrimToday

Almost 1,500 people in Leitrim are carers, looking after loved ones at home who are sick, old or have reduced abilities.

As we celebrate the tenth National Carers Week in Ireland, Manorhamilton group 24/7 Carers are raising awareness around caregiving and are calling on all local carers to get in touch.

The group re-affiliated what was the North Leitrim West Cavan Carers in 2013, they have 35 active members, but have over 60 members listed on their Facebook page and they are looking for more!

They meet every Thursday from 11am - 1pm in The Manorhub, Manorhamilton to chat, have fun, unwind and organise events. The group hopes to travel around to villages and towns this year to meet local carers.

The group held their big fundraiser last Friday, June 10. The members had plenty of goodies on offer to give people passing by. The tea morning is their biggest fundraiser of the year and the proceeds go towards the rent of their meeting room.

Marie Eames McGowan told the paper “Caring is an isolated job, it is 24/7 and it is lonely.”

Marie, an only child takes care of both her elderly parents. Her mother aged 93 has Alzheimers and her 90 year old father is also sick.

She said her mother doesn’t sleep much at night, so she is awake all night with her and without the 24/7 group she wouldn’t get out of the house much at all.

Carers in the group cover a wide range of patients, they look after elderly parents, sick siblings and children. Some patients have mental illness, others have reduced abilities and many are sick or elderly.

Marie has been ten years caring for her parents, like all the other members she didn’t choose the job, it just happened.

She left her career, has now spent all of her savings to stay at home and survive on a small allowance.

She said she loves attending the group meetings as she gets to talk to people who understand her situation, she said the group is also great to get answers and help from.

Many people who are put in this situation don’t know where to start to look for help, finance, assistance etc, the group gives you the information and support network you need.

The group organise various events and activities along with days out. They have completed print workshops, yoga, meditation, sculpture, IT, art and calligraphy classes. They organise a day away every year, attend the National Carers Weekend and celebrate Christmas and other events together.

Annie McGuinness, secretary of the group along with a few others have spoken on their plight at the European Union, having been invited over by MEP Marian Harkin.

Carrickeeny Wind Farm and Gilbert's Pharmacy have kindly sponsored activities for the group.

The group receive small specific grants from the HSE and the National Lottery Respite, the rest is from local donations.

The members told the paper, that a life at home caring for others can put you into a routine that doesn’t allow much interaction with the outside world, you lose confidence and can feel depressed. Some carers focus so much on their patients, they forget to look after their own health.

“Weekends are the worst” the members agree. It is almost impossible to get away for a wedding at the weekend or a night out, the weekends bring more of the same.

Unlike mothers of small children, it is not acceptable to bring sick, elderly or incapacitated patients to local events and activities, and the lack of interaction can leave carers very isolated.

Chairperson of the group Olivia Mitchell said during the sunny weather, carers don’t get a break to enjoy it. She said she hopes more people will think about the role of the carer during National Carers Week.

Home help and outside help can be scarce for those “who need it” and the members feel no appreciation from the Government who are saving thousands of euros keeping people out of nursing homes and care facilities.

24/7 Carers have a number of projects in the pipeline, they hope to survey carers to see what services are most needed and they want to see if they can help provide services themselves.

If you know a carer and want to help them, the carers advise you call ahead before visiting or offering to lend a hand.

24/7 carers will have an information stand at Manorhamilton Agricultural Show.

If you have any questions or want to know more call Marie 087-6844269 or email 247familycarers@gmail.com