Bernie O’Reilly from Ballyjamesduff in Co Cavan has won the Irish Red Cross Carer of the Year Award for 2015.
Bernie has cared for her son Damien on a full-time basis since he was born. Damien, now in his 30s, has cerebral palsy and is confined to a wheelchair.
Bernie provides 24-hour care for her Damien attending to his personal hygiene needs, providing wound care, administering medication and feeding.
Bernie’s award was presented to her today (Saturday 28.11.2015) at a ceremony in the Mansion House, Dublin by Irish Red Cross Acting Chairman Tom Horwell.
“This award is recognition for Bernie’s selfless commitment to Damien. She truly reflects one of the Red Cross’s fundamental principles, humanity. Her love and dedication for over 30 years is testament to that,” Mr Horwell said.
Martina McPhillips, who nominated Bernie for the award said: “Bernie is a very quiet lady, she never goes anywhere without Damien. She always has a smile on her face, and never complains.”
There are an estimated 187,112 unpaid carers in Ireland, approximately 4.1 per cent of the total population.
Michelle Russell, from Carrick-on-Suir, Co Tipperary was also in attendance at the Mansion House where she was presented with the Tipperary Area Award. Michelle cares for her son Cillian on a full-time basis.
“Michelle is a mother of 5-year-old triplets. Cillian needs 24-hour care, yet my other two kids want for nothing,” said her husband Michael who nominated her for the award.
Michelle is an active fundraiser for charities such as Bumbulance, Temple Street Children’s Hospital by running the Dublin City marathon.
“It is extraordinary that Michelle’s gives so much commitment to Cillian and can still be so generous with her time to fundraise and to help other people. She embodies one of the Red Cross’s seven Fundamental principles which is voluntary service”.
This award is recognition for Bernie’s selfless commitment to Damien. She truly reflects one of the Red Cross’s fundamental principles, humanity. Her love and dedication for over 30 years is testament to that,” Mr Horwell said.
The Irish Red Cross supports carers with the ‘Helping You to Care Course’ which provides knowledge and skills to the care giver so the recipient will experience optimal quality of life.
The Irish Red Cross also published the Carer’s Handbook, a fully illustrated guide for those looking after someone ill, elderly or with a disability.