Meet Fiona Dowdall who gave up work to be a full-time carer for her own Dad, a retired Garda, after he had a stroke.
“When Dad had a stroke, we decided as a family that I would take two years Carer’s Leave from work to look after him. It was payback time for me. Mam died when she was 41 so Dad reared the 4 of us. As the eldest, I was very close to him. I was his right-hand woman, so I was going to look after him and that was that. At the same time, my brother was dying from cancer, so we needed family around.
I found it hard at the start. Everything was new but I wouldn’t let anyone else mind Dad. There wasn’t great information available, and I didn’t know about any entitlements.
For the 5 years following his stroke, I travelled the road between Dad’s house and mine 6 times a day. I got Dad up every morning and put him to bed every night and visited in between. I hated leaving him, but he would say “go home to your own family”.
I have a brother in England and a sister here who is very busy working as a nurse. Understandably, they couldn’t be with Dad the same way I could. Thankfully my husband has a good job and was very supportive. However over time, I found the experience very lonely. Friends eventually stopped asking ‘are you coming out ?’ so I lost contact with many. My friends today are not the friends I used to have.
Dad dealt with a lot during his illness. When my brother died aged 46, Dad went in his wheelchair. There were underlying issues following the stroke such as COPD (Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), an irregular heartbeat, mobility issues and falling. Being a garda, Dad didn’t like telling people about himself. He was private and reserved. When a carer would come in, he would say” leave that for Fiona.” It was the hardest thing I ever did, and yet I would do it all again in a heartbeat.
People don’t realise how much family carers do. You are on call 24 / 7. Family carers are brilliant.
After Dad died, I was deciding what work to do. My sister-in-law suggested caring, and so I applied to Private HomeCare and literally started working within a week.
Because I was a family carer, I know the little things that make a difference. For my Dad, that included leaving his slippers in a certain spot, leave the TV on a certain channel, leave tablets (if any) on the right side of the table, put them on a napkin rather than in a bowl. I know it can be lonely for the people being cared for as well as I always make time for a chat.
I didn’t know some of the aspects of the job, such as potentially using a hoist, but Private HomeCare trained me in those aspects.
I love my job. I know I make a difference to people when I call into them”.
If you have personal experience of caring for a loved one, consider become a professional carer. Apply here.
Read more about the pathway to becoming a carer here.