If you happen to be a family carer you will know caring for a loved one can take over your life. I know. It took over mine. As a family carer I have experienced many things including grief, lack of services, frustration, anxiety, isolation, and exhaustion. Without support, a family carer’s role just gets tougher. So it was wonderful to learn that Ireland’s largest national voluntary organisation, The Carers Association, has now set up a base in Donegal to offer supports for family carers. They also lobby and advocate in an effort to gain recognition and social justice for carer’s invaluable contribution to society.  When I learned that they were hosting an information and pampering day in the Gateway Hotel in Buncrana on Monday of last week I went along.

I don’t recall a Monday feeling so good! While the rest of the world rushed by, Rose McBrearty, Family Carer Support Officer for The Carers Association, Donegal, welcomed us to the group before inviting Marian Simpson to lead us into a meditation and yoga session with lot of little tips on self-care in between. After lunch, I received a reflexology treatment, courtesy of the lovely Mary Roe followed by a very informative session on Nutrition by Specialised Kinesiologist and Nutritionist, Yvonne Mc Laughlin. All too soon I was back on the road again, goodie bag in hand, thanks to Healthwise pharmacy in Buncrana but the feel good factor stayed with me all evening, so a big shout out to all involved including the other two reflexologists, Maureen Keogh and Caroline Kuyper, and Lisa McBrearty, Barber, and Charlotte Callaghan, Hairdresser, who give up their time, freely and generously, to care for all the family carers who attended the event.

In the past, due to my family caring duties and a poor support network it was extremely difficult for me to attend information evenings, continually advocate for my son or travel to Dublin to protest against government cutbacks even though I wanted to. The long and short of it is, if a family carer is  able to access practical and specific services to meet their needs have a good support network, and surplus cash (which most family carer’s haven’t got due to giving up work to care for their loved ones) the family carer will feel supported and less alone in the family caring role.

According to the Carer’s Association’s leaflet, over 187,000 people in Ireland care for somebody at home. Together we perform over 4 million hours of work per week. Our combined contribution to our social economy is estimated at 2.5 billion a year. Yet, when I go seeking help, I rarely feel valued or get the help I seek to continue to care for my son. In fact, as one family carer said to me at the pampering day, “It’s a continuous battle, if you look for help you are almost made to feel guilty.”

The Carers Association in Donegal is now hoping to change that and work on the carer’s behalf. Rose is very passionate about what she is doing and is keen for carers in Donegal to join the association so they can be supported in their caring role. I’m looking forward to the next event and to be supported by The Carer’s Association, Donegal Branch and if you are a family carer in any capacity I would strongly advise you to get in touch. Every little bit of support helps when you are a family carer!

If you are a family carer and wish to find out more about The Carer’s Association, Donegal, you can contact Rose on 0864121869 or email