Following the huge success of the High Hopes Choir and Choir of Age, David Brophy assembled a choir from among Ireland’s 355,000 family carers. He wanted their involvement in the choir to be therapeutic and fun.
In a two-part documentary for RTE, the viewers hear the various different stories as they watched the participants prepare for a huge concert in the Wexford Opera House. These family carers selflessly care for their loved ones around the clock, seven days a week, by choice or more often by necessity. It seems highly appropriate that the name David gave his new choir was Unsung Heroes.
Next week is National Carers Week, the aim of which is to raise awareness of people in the community who look after those in need at home. Ninety percent of care in the community is performed by family members. Some of the aims of the organisers of this series of events are to deliver a variety of opportunities for carers nationwide and to engage with those who are not availing of supports and services.
The Carers Association is the body which looks after National Carers Week as well as the competition to find Carer of The Year. It is a national voluntary organisation of family carers in the home. It was established in 1987 and has resource centers and service bases from which it delivers its wide range of assistance measures. It is owned and controlled by carers and represents their interests as well as providing supports and services, aimed at helping to increase the quality of life for both the carer and the person in receipt of the care.
What comes to mind when we consider the issue of care? It is after all something we are all familiar with. It is the most important aspect at the beginning of life and more often than not at the end. None of us would be here right now if it had not been for the proper care we were given by our parents, or guardians, while we were babies and infants growing up. When we enter the twilight years, and beyond, our faculties begin to wane, and what we once took for granted starts to slip away. We need the help of other people whether we become frail in mind or body.
One of the most important things for those in love is to know that the other person cares for them and has their best interests at heart. When parents go to work they give their children into the care of the minder. Children are encouraged to care for their pets and to see to their welfare. Customers in shops are asked to handle fragile ornaments with care, and this too is often a sign attached to items sent through the post.
The basic message of Jesus’ teaching was that we would care for one another and put the needs of others before our own. Gardeners care for and tend the flowers that they love to see bloom year after year. In these last few years, especially, we have become used to being urged to care more for the earth and our environment. Indeed it is an election issue for some parties.
Looking after peoples’ mental health and being a companion and encouraging social interaction, as well as shopping, making sure they are well and maintaining good hygiene are just some of what the carer does on a daily basis.
A carer’s presence can ensure that elderly individuals feel secure and comfortable. Preparing nutritious meals, as well as everyday tasks in the home, are a key part of the role, which is ultimately to improve the individual’s quality of life by offering companionship and support.
Implicit in the notion of ‘care’ is supervision and trust: one watches over the other; the other believes that they will be safe. For the carer, it can be very rewarding to be the person who enhances the life of another and enables them to tackle the tasks of day to day living.
However, it is also physically and emotionally draining. They often have to juggle their own needs with those of the individual or people they are looking after. This can lead to feelings of helplessness, anxiety, guilt, and repressed anger. Not every person appreciates the carer and indeed some, depending on their illness, can at best be argumentative, at worst abusive.
The carer can feel isolated and often resentful of other family members who might appear to have abandoned them. It seems that all the work they do goes unrecognised and unappreciated. If they have had to leave employment in order to be a full-time carer, there may be financial pressures.
It is important for full-time carers to take advantage of respite care and home help when they need a break from caring. Online support networks can also be a lifesaver especially if there are no family or friends to offer assistance. Thanks to the development of modern technology, help is just a few clicks away on a smartphone.
Written by Marie – Therese Cryan