Ireland’s Carer of the Year and Young Carer of the Year 2015 Announced

22 family carers from across Ireland honoured for their caring roles

Featured in the Irish Independent 12/11/2015

A mother whose children have a rare bone condition has won carer of the year award
Twenty two family carers from across Ireland were presented with special awards today at the ninth Carers of the Year Awards 2015 hosted by The Carers Association in Dublin. The awards are held to celebrate the dedication and commitment of Ireland’s 187,000 family carers and 6,500 young carers.

Jennifer Carroll from Ballyclare, Co. Offaly has been announced as Ireland’s Carer of the Year and Donagh O’ Sullivan (12) from Cork as Ireland’s Young Carer of the Year 2015. They were presented with their awards by broadcasters and patrons of The Carers Association, Mary Kennedy and Marty Whelan.

Jennifer Carroll is a single mother who provides full-time care for her two children, Alex (8) and Ava (3). The children have Osteogenesis Imperfecta – a genetic disorder where bones break and fracture easily. Children and adults with this disorder also have muscle weakness, joint laxity, scoliosis, dental problems and hearing loss.

Jennifer also has the disorder and has had 15 fractures including both legs, both wrists, ribs and skull. Son Alex (8) has had a number of fractures to his ribs, skull, legs and arm. Alex is awaiting an operation on his arm to have telescopic rods inserted to straighten it. Daughter Ava (3) has had three fractures. She is a wheelchair user and is awaiting an operation on her femur to have telescopic rods inserted to straighten her leg.

Jennifer travels with the children at least six times a month to our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin. These are long days often leaving at 8 am and not getting home until after 8 pm. Both children attend for check-ups every six weeks. They have treatment every three months – infusions of Pamidronate to strengthen the bones, bone density scans and regular blood tests to monitor the treatment.

Jennifer’s daily routine includes getting Alex ready for school where he has a special needs assistant. Back home Jennifer exercises with Ava to help prevent muscle weakness from sitting in her wheelchair. A simple tumble on a carpeted floor can cause a fracture and Ava has to be supervised at all times.

Jennifer is one of a large and growing sector of family carers who provide care for more than one person. As there are no official statistics on this in Ireland, The Carers Association is proposing this be included as a key question on family carers in the next Quarterly National Household Survey conducted by CSO. This will prove very insightful as there are significant health and financial implications on family carers providing care for two and more people. Out of 22 award recipients today, a quarter of these provide care for two or more people.

There was a very strong entry for the Young Carer of the Year Award 2015. The Carers Association believes entries are increasing as more and more people recognise the role of young people as family carers. The last Census found 4,228 young carers (under 15) in Ireland.

The Young Carer of the Year 2015 is Donagh O’ Sullivan (12) from Co. Cork who helps care for his younger brother, Diarmaid. Diarmaid is a person with special needs including Autism and global developmental delay. He is non-verbal and has Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. Diarmaid needs full-time care and is completely dependent on others for all his needs.

His mother, Julie O’ Shea, has three other boys aged 14 to 18 and while the other brothers are helpful she says Donagh is exceptional and always go the extra mile. He stays with Diarmaid for hours, playing with him, tucking him into bed at night, making sure he has his favourite toys and giving up his bed regularly for his brother when he becomes upset. There is just 15 months between the two brothers.

Donagh received his award from last year’s Young Carer of the Year, Jamie Mooney from Dublin.

Speaking at the awards, Catherine Cox, Head of Communications of The Carers Association said “We had a very high level of nominations for this year’s awards, with a significant increase in the young carer category. While caring is a very challenging role, family carers provide care with love and it can be a very rewarding experience. We want to celebrate the enormous contribution and loving care provided by our family carers with these awards.”

Sponsored by Tunstall Emergency Response, the Carers of the Year Awards 2015 presented commemorative certificates to all nominees with 22 regional/local Carers of the Year honoured at today’s ceremony.

The work carried out by family carers each day across the country is incredible. As Ireland’s leading provider of personal and home monitoring services, we are very proud to work with family carers and to have the chance to acknowledge their commitment to caring for their loved ones” said James Doyle, MD of Tunstall Emergency Response, Ireland’s leading provider of telehealthcare services to over 35,000 Irish customers.

The Carers Association is a national voluntary organisation providing a range of vital supports and services to Ireland’s over 187,000 Family Carers