Louth and Leinster Netwatch Family Carer of the Year Karen Smith with Louth Meath Carer Supports Manager Páraic McGahey.
Family Carers Ireland, the national charity supporting Ireland’s family carers, has announced that this year’s Netwatch Louth and Leinster Family Carer of the Year is Karen Smith from Drogheda.
Karen is mother of two boys and two girls (24, 20, 18 and 13), three of whom have additional needs such as ADHD, Asperger’s syndrome, sensory processing disorder, ODD and dyspraxia.
Karen was nominated by her youngest daughter Megan who describes her mother as “a legend and hero”.
She also cares for her dad who has developed blindness due to diabetes and her mother who has emphysema.
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Karen’s daily routine involves dropping her eldest to work, her youngest to school and then taking care of household chores, preparing meals, shopping, collecting prescriptions and providing support to her parents. Her evenings are dedicated to providing care to three children.
Megan said her mam has looked after them all their lives and despite her own health issues, she never complains and always puts her children and the community first.
Along with being a family carer, Karen is also a driver for Cú Chulainn Blood Bikes, volunteers with the East Meath Defibrillator Unit and is a keen photographer, offering her skills free of charge to local worthy causes.
Karen is one of four regional finalists who will attend an awards ceremony in The Westin Dublin on November 25th where broadcaster Miriam O'Callaghan will present one with the overall 2021 Netwatch Family Carer of the Year Award.
The annual awards seek to recognise and shine a light on the remarkable contribution of Ireland’s forgotten frontline who go the extra mile every day in caring for loved ones with additional needs.
More than 500,000 people in Ireland provide unpaid care in the home for children or adults with physical or intellectual disabilities, frail older people, those with palliative care needs or those living with chronic illnesses, mental ill-health, or addiction. The 19 million hours of unpaid care provided each week by family carers would cost the state €20bn a year to replace.
The Covid-19 pandemic has been a challenging time for all of society but especially for family carers and those they care for who saw essential services and supports severely impacted. The blanket withdrawal of supports such as homecare, respite, personal assistance hours and residential care during lockdown forced many to care alone, around the clock. When Ireland shut down, family carers stepped up in support of their loved ones.
Louth Meath Carer Supports Manager Páraic McGahey said: “Now more than ever, family carers deserve to be recognised for their enormous contribution to our society.
“Their unyielding commitment to care for their loved ones at home, particularly during the Covid-19 crisis, has been nothing short of remarkable and this sacrifice often comes at a cost to their physical, emotional, and financial wellbeing.
“These awards are about paying tribute to all of Ireland's 500,000 family carers and shining a light on the immense work that they do, day in, day out, often with little or no help from the State. Their essential contribution to our national healthcare system needs to be properly acknowledged and supported.”
Colin Hayes, Netwatch Head of Business, Ireland & UK said: “This is our third year partnering with Family Carers Ireland, and yet again we are blown away by the level of sacrifice, care and commitment shown by each and every carer. It’s an honour to be part of this and hope that our involvement can help in even a small way to highlight this charity and support the needs of its members.”