Recent research conducted by Family Carers Ireland revealed that 68% of family carers felt they had no time for important relationships with their children, family or friends.
Spokesperson for the organisation, Ruairdhí Kelly says, “the sheer intensity of a person’s caring role can often leave them isolated. Many carers provide round the clock care, meaning that they have no time to get out of the home and socialise and risk being almost completely cut off from the outside world.”
Limerick Voice Reporter Ann Cronin has been speaking to local carers about the loneliness that can come with their role, and why it’s important not to stay silent.
RACHEL McMahon from Limerick City was a carer for her late father Tony. Just 58 when he was diagnosed with dementia, Tony McMahon was a popular sport’s broadcaster on Limerick’s Live 95FM until 2005, when he had a mild heart attack five minutes before he was due to go on air.
Following the attack, a number of other health issues came to light and Tony never returned to work.
After being diagnosed with dementia, Tony lived at home with Rachel and her mother for five years. The two women became responsible for his care.
During her time as a carer, Rachel found it very difficult to speak to others about her father’s illness. She explains it was this silence that caused her to feel so lonely.
“There were times when I just didn’t want to socialise. There were times I just didn’t want to go out and I could have. I don’t think I ever really said it at the time, but I just felt too worn down by everything.
“You just feel weighed down by whatever is going on. You don’t feel like you can be fun and let it go. It’s always there with you, that sense that you are responsible for someone even when you’re not with them,” Rachel says.
“It was very tough on my mental health. I found it a huge struggle not being able to talk about it.”
Rachel is not alone in her feelings as a carer.
A 60 year-old woman who is living in Limerick became a carer for her elderly father in November 2018. She now lives with her father and is his primary carer.
The Limerick woman says the lack of freedom which comes with being a family carer has affected her quality of life.
“I can’t really make plans. I can’t go away for a day or even for a full afternoon.
“I would be too worried about my father having another fall, making sure he’s staying hydrated, taking his medication and mealtimes.
“When I get out for a few hours, I must make sure the location is near enough to home, that my phone is out the whole time in case of an emergency. I have to be home before his bedtime.”
She continues, “I do get lonely. I’m lucky that I have a lot of cousins who I am in constant contact with but it’s very lonely because it’s only really people who are in these situations that understand it.
“Sometimes it can be a bit depressing, seeing how somebody who was so compos mentis, somebody who was the first in his family to go to university and studied pharmacy, to see how their mind and brain can turn. It’s sad.”
The mother of two explains how her role as a carer affects her relationship with her son and daughter:
“My father can be funny about people being in the house, people staying over or visitors. I’m lucky that my son is quiet, but even having my daughter staying over is a big deal for him.
“I don’t for a minute resent [caring for him]. It just goes with the territory. I am delighted to be in the right place at the right time, but it can be lonely and tiring,” she adds
Family Carers Ireland launched a Limerick support group in 2018 which organises support sessions and day trips for carers, as well as coffee mornings, fundraisers and other events.
For more information on caring in Ireland, click here.