Kicking off Carer’s week, Sarah Lynch and William Mahony from Louth East Meath Family Carers Support Group went into detail about the troubles and issues family carers face.
From giving up their lives, battling depression and embracing the loneliness of life, a carer’s job is no easy feat.
Louth East Meath Family Carer’s Support Group, run by William who is Chairman and Sarah as Secretary, along with Ciaran Briscoe who is vice chairman, Kathrine McCabe as treasurer, Anthony Connor as PRO, while complaints officer is Thomas Reilly. The group is a community group for carer’s, meeting up monthly usually taking place in the Barbican Centre. It is a safe space allowing members to rant and have a break from their constant duties.
When Sarah’s mother was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, her father decided to give up his full time job to take care of his wife.
However as he owned his own business prior to becoming a carer, he only receives half time carer’s pay, receiving €137 per week.
“Dad has no social life. He’s constantly looking after my mum. She’s nearly immobile and she can’t walk unaided now. There has to be someone with her at all times,” explained Sarah.
“Carer’s don’t really have a life. They’re not financially comfortable either because they either lose money through pensions when they get their old age pensions or when they give up work.
“Some people think ah grand, you’re a carer, you’re getting money for nothing, but they don’t get a quarter of enough for what they should be getting for the work they do.”
It takes nearly two hours for Sarah’s mother to get out of bed and to get her dressed. This is then followed by a full day of ensuring she is comfortable and has everything she needs.
“I take mammy in some days myself to give daddy a days break. And you’re constantly checking if she wants tea etc. It’s only small things but you’re constantly running around after them. You have to shower them, you have to wash their hair and keep them clean. And some of them can’t get out of bed and you have to prevent bed sores and move them every so often.”
No longer able to share a bed, Sarah added, “It broke my dad’s heart. They’re 50 years married this year and it broke his heart when they actually had to get separate beds, mammy has a hospital bed now.”
Carer’s receive training from the district nurse, learning how to flush the patients systems out.
Meanwhile, the patient themselves are said to feel uncomfortable with their treatment, “mam feels uncomfortable with it at times that people have to do all this for her. She has no privacy, and I suppose her dignity is gone too that she is in that situation. She has to depend on other people.
“It’s not just the person who is sick who has lost their life, the carer’s have as well and it affects the family big time. It’s not nice to see your loved one going that way.
There are currently over 73,000 carer’s documented in Ireland.
William Mahony, who is now of pension age, turning 66 last year, worked for nearly 40 years before having to take a step back to care for his wife. Having paid into his pension, be believed he would receive the full allowance on top of carer’s allowance. He now only gets half of carer’s allowance.
“If I had never worked a day in my life I would be on €242 a week pension. If I had never worked a day in my life, I’d be better off,” said William.
“I get half carer’s allowance, now the way I look at it, I’ve done all those years of working, I’ve paid tax, insurance and all the rest of it and I have paid into the system on both accounts. I’ve paid in for a pension and I’ve paid in for the carer’s allowance.”
Private carer’s receive €15-€18 an hour, while family carer’s receive just €274 a week, “yet it’s not a 48 hour week you do. It’s constant – 24 hours, 7 days a week. So if the Government have to pay for someone to come into your house, they wouldn’t be long changing a lot of things, there would be a lot more help,” added Sarah.
Both Sarah and William noted that with the continued cost of living rising, their income has failed to match.
“A lot of carer’s end up getting depressed,” said Sarah, “how are they expected to adjust to life again?”
“At the end of the day, who actually looks after the carer?” said Sarah.
Another problem carer’s face is the bereavement of their loved one. They are then forced back into the world without any guidance. Many have to resort to applying for job seekers allowance a month after said event.
"We’re not looking for medals, all we want is the recognition and a living wage for what we do,” said William.
Louth East Meath Family Carer’s Support Group are set to host their Carer’s Day this Friday, June 10 in the Barbican Centre. The event is free to all, running from 1pm until 4:30pm. Contact William Mahony at 0874615465 for further information.
Speakers will include a speech from the Mayor of Drogheda, James Byrne, Autism Supports Group, Alzheimer’s Support Group, along with many others on the day.
There will also be a break with refreshments, along with stalls set up with information stands.