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'90 cents an hour': Tipperary woman gives up work to care for mother

Dylan White

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Dylan White

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'90 cents an hour': Tipperary woman gives up work to care for mother

Tipperary Carer of the Year 2019 Mary Doran with her mother Leishe at Clonmel Town Hall

A devoted Newcastle woman was presented with the Tipperary Carer of the Year Award 2019 at Clonmel Town Hall last Friday.

“It feels like I’ve won an Oscar. I was so excited coming here today and it really is an honour because I never won anything before,” an emotional Mary Doran, accompanied by her mother Leishe Doran (née O’Dwyer) and family members, told TipperaryLive.ie at the mayoral reception.

'Family sacrifice'

Having spent 14 years working as a tax consultant in Dublin and more recently in Newbridge, Mary initially moved back home to Newcastle in 2015 to care for her mother Leishe, but found herself helping to look after her uncles Johnny, Peadar and Jerry O’Dwyer as well.

“There was so much going on at home and it was impossible to be in two places at once. Mam started to get very ill and I was caring for my uncle Johnny, who was passing away at home,” Mary said.

Mary’s uncle Peadar then passed away in 2016, followed by the unexpected death of her father Thomas in 2018. “It’s very isolating caring for a sick person all the time, especially when the prognosis isn’t positive. But at the end of the day all you have is family. If I hadn’t moved home, I wouldn’t have got to spend so much time with my father before he passed away. It’s the small things that matter most,” a thankful Mary continued.

Mary, who had to do specialised training to be a carer, is currently caring for her mother Leishe and her uncle Jerry. Nominated by fellow Newcastle native Mary O’Gorman, of O'Gorman's Bakery in Clonmel, Mary received the award for the care she has given Leishe in particular.

She has been her mother’s rock over a “challenging” past few years. “Mam’s doctors at South Tipperary General Hospital say it’s a miracle she’s here with us today. When she gets ill, it’s critical. The amount of times the doctors have told me she only has a couple of hours left and you just have to get on with it,” Mary said.

“She’s such a strong woman. She had cancer, many surgeries, couldn’t absorb nutrients from food and was getting malnourished, was very susceptible to infections, and was on life support twice. She’s only been in hospital six weeks this year, has just finished five months of antibiotics back-to-back and she’s doing really well,” Mary said.

Mary said being a carer is a “family sacrifice”. She stressed the importance of elderly people remaining in their homes for as long as possible. “Nobody should be turfed out of their house. From the State’s point of view, it’s cheaper to keep people in their homes. Older people have a lot to contribute to society and have every right to stay in their homes,” she added.

'Carers hugely important'

Mayor of Clonmel Borough District Cllr Garret Ahearn said Mary represents all the carers in Tipperary. “Family Carers Ireland is a hugely important body that creates awareness about the work being done that a lot of people don't see. It’s work done by people, for the most part, who don’t expect they’ll ever have to do it. This award is a way of recognising the commitment people make, often for family members but not always,” Mayor Ahearn said.

“About 20 years ago, my own grandmother became ill and she was cared for at home. The love and support you get is really important and very private,” he added.

'No one in it for the money'

Cllr Pat English said very few people get a mayoral reception and that it’s “a great acknowledgement” for the care Mary has shown her mother. Cllr English praised carers across Clonmel for the 24-7 work they are doing for “very little” money.

Cllr Richie Molloy, who is the Family Carers Ireland area support manager, said the purpose of the Tipperary Carer of the Year Award is to create awareness about the work of carers. “Most people don't realise what it’s like to be a family carer until they are in the position. People might know someone who’s caring for their mam, dad or a child with special needs but that’s about it,” Cllr Molloy said.

Cllr Molloy said carers from across the Munster region held a conference in Kilkenny last Thursday, expressing “absolute anger and disappointment” at Budget 2020. “The Government didn’t listen to the demands of carers, which were outlined in our pre-Budget submission and tailored around our A Decade Lost campaign. Things have gone backwards for carers in the last 10 years,” he continued.

“Home help workers are giving 30 to 45 minutes service, running from here to there, and there’s no time for the chat anymore. Traditionally a home help worker went in for an hour at least. There’s a big difficulty getting home respite and there’s a huge fear of a shortage of staff because home care assistants are leaving the HSE. Unless a new recruitment drive with better working conditions is introduced, it will be difficult to see how services will be improved,” he underlined.

Cllr Molloy said Family Carers Ireland has 25 staff in Tipperary, who go into homes to give carers like Mary a break. “We never go in for anything less than an hour because it’s of no real benefit. We need to keep reminding the powers that be that it’s tough being a carer. No one is in it for the carers allowance, which works out around 90 cents an hour,” Cllr Molloy emphasised.

Cllr Molloy praised Mary for being a “great advocate” for carers. “It’s hard to get carers to tell their story because it’s not easy to put yourself out there. If you don’t have people telling their personal stories, it doesn't have an impact on the wider community.”

'Caring goes unnoticed'

Mattie McGrath TD said it’s “impossible” to make up the losses carers have suffered over the last 10 years and that “Ireland would be a much poorer place without them.” He said “you couldn’t find a more deserving person” than Mary for the award. He wished her all the best at the Family Carers Ireland National Carer of the Year Awards final in Dublin on November 22 and said he would try to organise a visit to Dáil Éireann on the day for Mary and her family. “Mary and her family have given so much to the community on an ongoing basis,” he said.

Deputy McGrath called for the “invaluable service” that carers provide to be supported by the Government. “There are children carers across Tipperary, who should be in school and enjoying activities, and it’s just not right. Caring goes unnoticed because it’s in the home,” he added.

Cllr Máirín McGrath took “extra pride” in a fellow member of the Newcastle community winning the award. “I know how hard Mary works at home with her family in Newcastle. Carers are the heroes in our towns and villages,” she added.