CARING for Carers Clare’s milestone 25th anniversary last week, was also the end of one era for the carers body and the beginning of another, as Clare has now merged with the national organisation, Caring for Carers Ireland.
The anniversary was also marked with presentations to co-founder Judith Ironside and Clare branch president Maura Harding and with presentations of mementos to the chairpersons of the eight Clare groups that make up the branch.
Among the 105 attending the dinner were Gwen Murray Flynn, president of Soroptimist International, Ennis & District and Eilish Smith, chairperson of the board of Caring for Carers Ireland.
Caring for Carers was started in Ennis 25 years ago by Soroptimists’ Judith Ironside, Mary McMahon and Brigid Barron. It would become the nucleus of the national organisation that is now helping carers in 23 counties.
Area manager, Susan Hogan, has been in the training and development role for the past 15 years and estimated that she has trained more than 1,500 people in that time. She also oversees a busy office in Carmody Street Business Park, Ennis with two full-time nurses and a group of volunteers.
“We basically provide services to family carers, all the things that State agencies don’t do and we try to support them in their own homes. These days, more and more people are in their own homes and only 5% are in nursing homes,” Susan explains.
“We’re the original carers branch and model and the branches around the country are based on our model. I have eight carers groups in this county in Newmarket, Shannon, Miltown Malbay, Kilrush, Carrigaholt, Ennis, Ennistymon and Scariff.
“They meet once a month and organise their own events and also come to things that I organise. We have a monthly meeting with a speaker and the carers have a cup of tea and a chat, and that’s the most important part, the groups support each other.
“You might have some lady in your group who has just done what you might be thinking of doing now. We all know each other’s care. We don’t have to say it, we all speak openly about our care because confidentiality is understood,” Susan added
The Carmody Street centre, which also hosts the Caring for Carers Ireland headquarters, has a walk-in clinic and is always staffed by a nurse.
“A carer can come in if she’s upset about something or she can ring up and make an appointment, or we will go out to the house. She’s talking to a nurse and when she comes in, somebody is going to help her and give her the information that she needs.”
Caring for Carers Clare also helps people to secure their entitlements and benefits, refer carers to statutory bodies and generally assess the situation they find themselves in. They are one of the agencies that can provide homecare packages and carry out a lot of training for carers.
“This clinic is professionally led and we provide a listening ear. Sometimes you can’t do anything for them but they come in and they talk and you can tease it out,” says Susan.
Since its inception 25 years ago, Caring for Carers Clare has brought small groups of carers for respite to Lahinch, and attend the national conference, usually with the largest contingent of delegates.
“We usually have about 500 coming from all over the country and Clare always has the biggest contingent. I’d usually have about 85, so it takes some handling getting them all there and back. People will tell you that this organisation changed their lives. They go out and make friends, which is great because a carer really does suffer from isolation. If you have a child with a disability, you become a disabled family, it isolates you very much but if you go with other carers it’s grand because you can talk openly about it.
“We have great fun together and a great laugh. We go off to the conference and the two nights we’re away, the carers have a ball,” she adds.
The Clare branch also does a small bit of fundraising – usually a table quiz and a céilí – which goes to help support carers who can’t get any help from other sources.
Susan would like to do more but just doesn’t have the time. “The money we collect goes into carers support. What we do is put in a helper for two hours a week. It’s not a lot but the carer can go out and get her hair done or stay in the house or go to bed for the two hours. It makes such a difference to them, it’s the most talked about part of the service,” she says.