Nominations open for carers of the year, young and old

Hard work and devotion of family carers saving the State €10 billion annually, says care group

Family Carers Ireland announce they are accepting nominations for the 2017 Carer of the Year Awards at a launch in Dublin. Recent CSO figures suggest family carers save the State €10 billion annually.


Last November Zondra Meaney received a call to say her mother had been named Ireland’s carer of the year. Eager to show how grateful she was for support and love she receives, Ms Meaney had nominated Dorothea in secret.

Ms Meaney was born with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome - a tissue disorder that has an adverse effect on every part of body. Her mother began caring for her five years ago when her health began to rapidly deteriorate. She also has Chiari malformation, a condition when the lower part of the brain pushes down into the spinal canal, and recently discovered she will have to undergo brain surgery.

“I also have paralysis in my stomach so I suffer a lot of vomiting and from trying to eat. It’s a constant battle every day.”

Speaking at the launch of the 2017 Carer of the Year Awards, Ms Meaney underlined how her mother’s role as a 24/7 carer and help in looking after her 9-year-old son has allowed her to maintain a level of independence in her own life.

“She comes to my house at 7.30 in the morning to help me get Carrick ready for school. She has to drive him to school for me and collect him and do all the meal preparations. She helps me when I shower, washing and drying my hair and is especially helpful with all the medical appointments.”

“We just deal with it every day and keep happy spirits. My mother has always thought she was just being a mother but it’s more than that. I think for any carer to get that recognition, even just the nomination, it means so much.”

Family Carers Ireland is calling on friends and family to nominate their loved ones for the 2017 Carer of the Year Awards in recognition of their tireless work in supporting those less able than themselves. Catherine Cox, head of communications with Family Carers Ireland, says the devotion and hard work of the more than 350,000 family carers across the State is saving the HSE more than €10billion every year.

“Without family carers our society and health services would literally crack... the stress would be immense. What carers do is of huge value to us and we need to continue supporting that.”

With more than 50,000 young carers aged between 10-17 looking after their loved ones, Family Carers Ireland is also calling for nominations for the youth carers in our society.

Sean Collins (14) from Monaghan is one of the primary carers of his 16-year-old sister Catherine who suffers from a rare chromosomal disorder. Catherine is unable to speak and uses basic sign language to communicate.

“I think because I’m closer to her in age that she looks up and respects me in some way. She looks to me when she wants something. I remember when she was young she used to follow me around the house.”

Sean’s has been taking extra care of his sister since his mother was diagnosed with cancer for the second time. “Mum’s having to go to hospital a lot and Catherine’s very upset because she’s very close to her. I kind of had to step up and take over the role.”

Sean recently raised €2,000 for his sister’s school in Cootehill by dying his hair bright pink and last November was named young carer of the year for Ulster/Connaught. “People ask me what it’s like to look after her but it’s not something I even think about. It’s nothing special, I just do it and get done.”

Seunfunmi Solanke, who was named young carer for Leinster in 2016, helps her mother look after her younger brother who has Down syndrome. Every Friday she brings him to his Special Olympics training where he does athletics and plays basketball.

“It makes me happy when I see him happy and he finds happiness in everything,” says the 17-year-old. “Looking after him teaches you patience and also just to be thankful. We try to give him independence but still be there in the background just watching him to make sure everything is ok.”

Nominations for the 2017 Carer of the year award and Young Carer of the Year award open on Wednesday, April 26th and will remain open until September 15th.