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2013 Carer of the Year – Eithne Byrne

Eithne Byrne from Dublin is our of the 2013 Carer of the Year winner. Eithne was chosen and judged from over 1,200 carers here at Comfort Keepers. Today, we caught up with her and interviewed her about her role and her win.

Eithne, many congratulations on your achievement of being awarded Carer of the Year. How long have you been a carer?

Thank you. I’ve been a carer with Comfort Keepers for two years. Although I had other jobs in the past, in many ways, I’ve always been a carer. I cared for an elderly neighbour when I was in my teens. I helped her in the mornings before school and called in to see her at lunchtime and in the evenings. It was a huge shock when I won this award and I feel very proud.

As you should Eithne, it certainly isn’t in everyone to be a carer. What do you think makes a person a good carer?

There are a few different elements to it. They need to be kind, reliable and a good conversationalist as an aspect of caring is companionship. Some people are very good at providing company. However, they must also be able to provide personal care such as assisting with showering and dressing. Making the client feel comfortable.

While we have our timetable and routine, our days can change if a client is taken unwell or if we suspect something is wrong. So, a good carer needs to be practical and decisive too. We receive training in manual handling, first aid and care of the older person but so much of it is in the person as well. They have to enjoy their job.

I totally agree and I can see why family members need the assistance of a carer for an elderly parent. What is a typical day in the life of a carer, Eithne?

It can vary from day to day. I have some clients that I see once or twice a day and I have other clients that I see twice a week. There fore, some days are quite busy as I go from one client to another whereas on other days, I have breaks between clients. I  also provide cover if another carer was unable to see her clients on that day. Comfort Keepers are very good at ensuring that clients receive carers who would work well with them and if one carer has to cover for another, that they are similar in their approach and they would be well informed too.

What do you think it means for your clients to have a carer?

For many of them, it means that they can continue to live at home independently. Sometimes they need a lot of help such as with washing and dressing, sometimes they just need companionship and medication reminders. Most of my clients receive Meals on Wheels so I don’t have to do meal preparation but that is offered in some areas.

Family members usually notice a big difference in the person once a carer has been in attendance for a couple of weeks. Sometimes the elderly person is lonely and may not be eating properly. Once the carer is visiting regularly, we notice that they are more outgoing, they often take up going to day clubs at the day care centres again, their skin improves, they are smiling and are more chatty. Having a carer can make a huge difference to a person’s contentment as well as physical health.

In all cases, a care plan is drawn up and we, as carers, give feedback on how we think the care plan is going and if any changes might have to be made. We write a report in the client’s log book every day so the family, as well as Comfort Keepers, have a log to view.

Finally, Eithne, I can see that you really enjoy your role as a carer, but what do you enjoy the most?

I enjoy the flexbility as I have a child in primary school. It’s a very rewarding job knowing that you are making such a difference to someone’s life.  I enjoy meeting people too – both the clients and other carers. Comfort Keepers holds coffee mornings and other functions for carers so we have lots of opportunities to get to know each other.

Thank you Eithne and once again, many congratulations on being awarded Comfort Keepers’ 2013 Carer of the Year. 

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