Unsung Heroes In Wexford Was Fantastic, But Darker Story Highlighted

Today, in the midst of Carer’s Week, I sit down to write this article after having just administered my profoundly disabled son’s 7 medications for the morning, writes Tracy, as part of Wexford Weekly’s new Carer’s Column…

He’ll get another round of the same medications this evening. These are the medications that keep him alive; keep his intractable epilepsy from being completely out of control.

I have a confession to make: I didn’t watch Part Two of RTE’s Unsung Heroes program about carers like me. I watched the first one and ended up sobbing. I wasn’t going to put myself through that again. At the heart of the crying was something you, the reader, might not expect, but it’s the unvarnished truth: I cried because watching the program only reminded me that I’m amongst that segment of carers who aren’t free enough to participate in such activities. No respite. No family to care for our loved one which would allow us to attend the choir practice and performances. Nothing.

So, I sat there last week, crying, wishing I could be free.

This morning on Twitter I wrote: “I wish I could go for a walk every day. Is that too much to wish for? That’s #RealCarersWeek for you. I’m not a hero. I’m just a #carer during #CarersWeek who is trapped in the home trying to keep my head above the murky waters of depression, anxiety and isolation.

That summed it up in one short tweet.

My concern about Carer’s Week, and the platitudes carers receive one week a year, is that non-carers aren’t really listening to that desperation which goes on behind our closed doors. The government, if they are actually listening, is choosing to ignore our pleas. The public, watching programs such as Unsung Heroes, cry and sympathise for the hour long viewing, but generally speaking, that is where it ends.

So what needs to be done?

Here’s what I want everyone who watched Unsung Heroes and had their heartstrings tugged on to consider. Here’s what I want the politicians to act upon. Here’s why I want everyone interested in Human Rights and Worker’s Rights to join in advocating for reforms for carers and their disabled family members. 

There is a cohort of workers who are forced to work without pay, often around the clock, often with no assistance. These workers aren’t even building up a pension for retirement…if they even live to see retirement years, that is.

These workers do have an option to leave this job, but it would literally require them to give up one of their children or their spouse to be free to live a life apart from this unpaid, constant work.

Can you imagine that being the only choice?

These workers must perform their duties full time if they are to get any financial assistance from the government, and even if they do that work, they may not receive that (very meager) assistance if they have a working spouse or a decent savings to fall back upon.

These workers go days, weeks, sometimes even months without seeing their peers, without having interaction apart from the job they do often 24/7. Their own physical and emotional health slowly eroding as the years of work continue.

Are you still with me?

These workers are family carers.

In Ireland, we save the state approximately €10 billion annually by providing this care v. if we decide not to provide it and instead put our loved one in residential care (that is, IF it is even available). For many of us, for many reasons, the latter isn’t an option.

This is Carer’s Week. Or as many of us carers call it, Real Carer’s Week.

When you advocate for a better society, please remember those workers who are hidden away behind their doors, often silent, always exhausted, and usually ignored by the government.

We don’t need platitudes, and we definitely don’t need platitudes for one week a year.

What we need are reforms.

More services to support our work, both in home and out of the home. Respite services. Day services. A fair living wage that gives us the ability to have credit, the ability to apply for home and vehicle loans, all while we have a pension accruing. We need more disability suitable housing, both social and private. Timely access to required equipment and care.

We need mental health services made available to all family carers, including home based services as many carers are unable to avail of these services outside of the home because of their full time caring work. We need wraparound palliative care for the entire family.

This is just for starters. We need many things, for what we give 24/7 is so much more.

We aren’t unbreakable. We aren’t superheroes. We are human beings who are being exploited because we LOVE and CARE. It’s time for it to change.

I am the mother to 2 amazing boys: Declan who is 12 and Brendan Bjorn who is 15. Brendan Bjorn was born with severe brain damage as a result of congenital CMV (cytomegalovirus) which has left him profoundly disabled, medically fragile and with a life-limiting condition. I write about our journey together and I advocate for Carer’s Rights and Disability Rights. I am a Co-founder of Profound Ireland.

Read Also:

Carers Column: Where The Boardwalk Ends

5 Replies to “Unsung Heroes In Wexford Was Fantastic, But Darker Story Highlighted”

  1. I’m an ex carer and if I can help give you any time off I would gladly help out.

  2. While I am deeply sympathetic to Tracy’s unfortunate circumstances there is an implication in this article that there is a divide between the members of the ‘Unsung heroes choir’ and to quote ‘Real Carer’s ‘. I can only speak of the circumstances relating to about a dozen of the choir members as I do not personally know any of the fifty or so others. Of the individuals that I do know each and everyone has a personal tale of constant stress, hardship and heartache to a greater or lesser extent. One last point, some of us aren’t happy with the designation ‘heroes’, unsung yes but not perhaps heroes. When presented with the task of looking after a disabled child, spouse or an elderly person most just get on with it and hope for the best. However a little recognition and more focused state support would be more than welcome.

  3. Tracy that was so powerfully put. Well done you. No one should have to care alone as the Family Carers Ireland state. Creating awareness thru programs like Unsung Heroes is hugely effective and will put the pressure up the government’s arse to implement employee benefits to carers which is their right, as is respite. No other job expects one to work 27/7 alone. One lady put it very well and powerfully in last night’s program she loves her adult child but doesn’t like caring and is doing it because the state reneged their responsibilities when her child turned 18. The most vulnerable are the most important in society and it is a sign if a society how we treat our most vulnerable. Ireland is bottom of the list in Europe and degressing every year in terms of PA hours and essential respite. Keep fighting Tracy. You are not alone. Margo Hannon your twitter buddy @savecuisle campaigner #respitecrisis

  4. Thanks for engaging and commenting, Gerry. We created the title. The writer had no involvement with that at all. This article was in no means an attempt to place any divide between carers.

    We appreciate the work that all carers are doing; this article was published simply in a bid to increase awareness to the carer’s situation. The use of the Unsung Heroes doc, which was fantastic, was used to highlight the same injustices highlighted in the doc and so people would engage further (It’s working).

    And carers are heroes, but it’s time they are treated like that. Articles like this and docs like UH, where we push for more supports for carers and showcase the unfair treatment in the public domain, are needed.

  5. Carers are not heroes nor are the people we care for. Heroes have a choice, we do not

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