By Suzanne Pender
A CARLOW mother who has devoted her time to caring for her husband and raising their family while dealing with her own health challenges has been named the 2022 Netwatch Carlow Family Carer of the Year.
Lynda Harrington-O’Dwyer from Tullow Road, Carlow cares for her husband James, who has multiple sclerosis (MS). Twelve years ago, James was diagnosed with relapsing remitting MS, which unfortunately resulted in a decline in his health.
Throughout this difficult time, Lynda has supported James both physically and emotionally. She has devoted her time to caring for her husband and raising their family while experiencing her own health difficulties.
Lynda has worked tirelessly to ensure that James receives the support that enables him to remain as independent as possible.
Now in their 15th year, the Netwatch Family Carer of the Year Awards seek to recognise and shine a light on the remarkable contribution of the more than half-a-million people in Ireland who provide care at home to loved ones such as children or adults with additional needs, physical or intellectual disabilities, frail older people, those with palliative care needs, or those living with chronic illnesses, mental health challenges or addiction.
The 19-million hours of unpaid care provided each week by family carers would cost the state €20 billion a year to replace. Family carers often go unnoticed in the community despite the immense workload they take on and the significant commitment they show to those that they care for.
“Caring for a loved one at home can be rewarding, but it can also be challenging, particularly in the absence of vital supports and services, including respite,” said Danielle Dunne, Family Carers Ireland community support manager for Carlow and Kilkenny.
“This can take a toll on a person’s physical, mental, financial and social wellbeing. Often, a person can find themselves taking on the role of a family carer with little or no warning. These are mums, dads, sons, daughters, siblings, relatives, friends and colleagues, who sometimes don’t even see themselves as family carers. They are doing extraordinary work that is too often unseen and undervalued.
“These awards are an important event in our calendar every year as we seek to provide some small recognition to all of those who care at home for loved ones with additional needs and to ensure their stories are heard,” said Danielle.
Mick Galwey, Netwatch brand ambassador, described family carers as the backbone of local communities, while the Netwatch Family Carer of the Year Awards offered a chance to highlight their “sheer tenacity, selflessness and resilience”.
“We have learnt more than ever over the last two years just how important caring is. Family carers are ordinary people we know, doing extraordinary work behind closed doors. It is only right that we champion their contribution, and to be a part of that is very special to me and to Netwatch,” he said.