Long-serving family carers recognised by President at special ceremony

20 carers recognised have provided a combined 793 years of care

Twenty family carers were honoured today by President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, for providing a collective 793 years of care for their loved ones.

At a special ceremony hosted by The Carers Association in the Shelbourne Hotel, President Higgins presented each family carer with a commemorative piece of Penrose crystal in recognition of their love, dedication and many sacrifices made in providing long-term care of between 30 to 54 years each.

With a number of family carers represented today in their 80’s, latest figures finds the number of ageing parent carers is on the rise. In Ireland, there are 252 carers over the age of 70, 809 aged 60-69 and more than 1,700 carers aged between 50 and 60.*

Speaking at the ceremony President Higgins said “As a society we must all be grateful for the quiet, sustained work of the many unsung heroes who provide critical care for family members and others who, without that care, would be unable to remain in their own homes. That such care is altruistic and given with generosity does not, and should never, exonerate the State from its duty of care towards all of its citizens.

Each one of those chosen for these awards, and the many other people around the country that they mirror or represent, provides an essential service which allows someone affected by illness or disability or old age to live as comfortable and normal a life as possible within the familiarity of their own home and to be surrounded by their own unique memories as they struggle with the effects of their debilitating illness or disability.

In our society we acknowledge and reward achievement, whether in business, sport, the arts or other endeavours. We are here today to celebrate achievements, which are born of a spirit of giving to others. Unlike others, family carers work is done quietly and in the background, and they neither seek nor receive any fanfare.”

Speaking at the event Catherine Cox, Head of Communications, The Carers Association said, “Today is a very special day for us as an organisation and for our family carers who have provided such long-serving dedication and care for their loved ones. It is a real honour that our President has recognised the work provided by family carers every day, particularly the group we have here today who have cared for most of their lives. While caring is most often done from love and can be very rewarding, it can be stressful, tiring and many sacrifices are made. We applaud the family carers honoured here today”.

The honoured family carers came from across Ireland to attend today’s ceremony, including:

Mary McDonnell (78) from Douglas, Co. Cork has cared for her daughter Sinead since her birth 52 years ago. Sinead has Cerebral Palsy and a very severe degree of spastic quadriplegia. While Sinead’s mind is fully functional, she is a wheelchair user, has scoliosis of the spine, a dislocated hip and needs full-time care.

Peter Riordan (84), Ireland’s Carer of the Year 2012, from Naas, Co. Kildare has a family of nine and has provided full-time care for three of his family for nearly 40 years. He cared for his wife Ethel until her passing in 2004 and currently cares for his two sons – Ronan (39) is a person with Downs Syndrome and Bernard (54) was left brain-damaged and is a wheelchair user following a tragic car crash in 1978 in which his brother Stephen (aged 15 at the time) was tragically killed. Peter provides this care while also managing diabetes and other health issues.

Brigid Redmond (75) from Walkinstown, Co. Dublin who cares for her son, Dermot, for the past 45 years. Dermot is a person with a learning disability and also cares for his mother, as Brigid has cancer.

Kathleen Maguire (60) from Rathowen, Co. Westmeath has provided care for over 40 years. Her mother had Alzheimer’s for a number of years before she sadly passed away. Kathleen also cares full-time for her sister, Rosaleen (52) who is blind. With Kathleen’s help and encouragement, Rosaleen is set to realise her singing dreams this year with the launch of her first album.

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