A YOUNG man from Limerick who has cared for his grandmother for seven years has been named regional Carer of the Year.
Damien Hickey, 33, has been a full time carer to his grandmother Marie since he was 26 after she raised him from the age of just two months.
Marie - who Damien refers to as his mam - had a stroke back in 2007, and he immediately moved in with her, providing round-the-clock care to the wheelchair-bound pensioner.
And his efforts have been recognised by the Carers Association in the Mid-West following a nomination by his sister Pamela.
Now, he will face 11 other carers from across the country at a Grand Final in Dublin’s Westin Hotel next week, hosted by RTE’s Marty Whelan and Mary Kennedy.
Damien revealed that when he found out his sister had nominated him, he said: “You’re not serious”.
“It is shocking really. It is not something you ever expect to be awarded for in a sense,” he told the Limerick Leader.
Although Damien, and wife Aine, get an hours help from the HSE each day, he would do the bulk of the work the rest of the day.
“Everything has to be done. We get one hour help in the morning getting her up from the HSE for dressing and washes. But I would look after her the rest of the day. She has reared me since I was two months old. We all would do it for someone we love,” he said.
Each day, Damien prepares his Gran’s medication, cooks her lunch, dinner, does her washing, and helps her use the bathroom.
On top of this, they go out twice a week, including a weekly trip to Milford Hospice.
Damien says his workload has grown year-on-year.
“Progressively, it started from a little help to a lot of help,” he said.
Although he feels sadness at missing out on a large part of his youth, he says this is just an emotion he has to deal with.
“Your own needs and wants become inert for a while,” he commented.
Marie said she is “very proud” of her grandson for winning the regional title.
Aine, who also wrote a letter in support of her husband to the Carers Association, added: “He does absolutely everything, from when she gets up to when she goes to bed. She would not be with us today if she was not getting his care. She would not survive. He is that important”.
Deirdre Hogan, family support worker at the Carers Association, said: “He is a young guy caring for an elderly relative. He is the face is what is going on in this country.”
If Damien is named national Carer of the Year next week, it will be the second time in a row a Limerick carer has won the title.
Last year, Anne Curtin of Ballinacurra Gardens won the overall title for the care she provides to her disabled son Andrew, and husband local writer Michael, who suffered a stroke 10 years ago.