Family Carers Ireland recognises remarkable carers at annual awards ceremony

Netwatch carer of the year awards 2019

From left to right: Marty Whelan, Catherine Cox, Wendy Hamilton, Marcin Filak, Ola Filak

The 2019 Netwatch National Carer of the Year and four regional Young Carers of the Year for 2019 were announced today at a gala awards ceremony held in the Westin Hotel, Dublin.

Broadcasters and patrons of Family Carers Ireland Marty Whelan and Mary Kennedy presented Marcin Filak from Kildalkey, Co. Meath with the overall Netwatch Carer of the Year Award.

Marcin cares for his wife Ola, who suffers from locked-in syndrome, and their two children, the eldest of whom Piotr (13) has autism. Ola suffered a catastrophic brain stem stroke three weeks after the birth of the couple’s daughter Anastasia (2), resulting in locked-in syndrome. Her condition means she is aware of her surroundings but cannot move or speak and now communicates through eye movements. The couple are originally from Poland but moved to Ireland in 2016.

Throughout Ola’s 18 months in hospital, Marcin was by her side every day and always maintained that he would make her dream to come home a reality. He quit his job as a farm equipment engineer and undertook extensive training in order to be able meet his wife’s care needs at home.

Ola and the St Pats team from the National Rehabilitation Hospital nominated Marcin to say thank you for the extraordinary care he provides for his family.

Now in their 13th year, the Netwatch Carer of the Year awards seek to recognise, celebrate and shine a light on the remarkable contribution of Ireland’s 355,000 family carers – almost two thirds of whom provide over 100 hours of care per week. Today, 1 in 10 people provide care for a loved one in the home; by 2030, that figure is expected to rise to 1 in 5.

The 2019 Netwatch Young Carers of the Year are:

Munster: Lily Power (18) from Co. Cork who has been caring from a very young age for her mum who has Parkinson’s.

Ulster: Áine Grant (20) from Co. Donegal who cares for her mum Nuala who was diagnosed with early onset dementia two years ago.

Leinster: Matthew McCartin (17) from Co. Wexford who has been caring for his dad since he was five years old. His Dad now has advanced Parkinson’s Disease with dementia and is wheelchair bound.

Connacht: Hailey Golden (11) from Co. Mayo who has three brothers with special needs. She has learned ‘Lámh’ and Picture Exchange Communication and helps to feed and dress them and to use their speech devices.

Speaking at the gala awards ceremony, Catherine Cox, Head of Communications and Carer Engagement with Family Carers Ireland said:

“We are thrilled to announce Marcin as our 2019 Netwatch National Carer of the Year. His commitment to his family is an inspiration to us all. As always we are in awe of our 4 Young Carers of the Year 2019 and the maturity and dedication they show in helping care for their loved ones. We look forward to this event each year which not only gives family carers the recognition they deserve, but also shines a light on caring in Ireland today and the challenges that many face in their roles. The theme of this year awards is “No one should have to care alone” highlighting the need for a shared responsibility for caring between the family carer, wider family, community and most importantly the state”.

Wendy Hamilton, Vice President, Operations, Netwatch Group added:

“To be here today at the Carers Awards is a real honour. Some of the Netwatch team have had the privilege of meeting the finalists at the local ceremonies around the country, and they have all been touched by the stories of these amazing families. Marcin, with his wife and kids, is an inspiration to us all – and a reminder of the material contribution carers make in communities all over Ireland. So we are privileged to have this opportunity to show our support for family carers and their vital work through this partnership with Family Carers Ireland”