A Clifden woman who has been a carer for 28-years was “stunned” when she was named a regional finalist recently in the national Comfort Keepers Carer of theYear Awards.
Breege Kinneavy (formerly Conneely ) who has been living in Headford for 38 years and works with the home care provider, attended a special ceremony in her honour in Dublin at the weekend.
“I still can’t believe it,” says the delighted mother of two adult children. “I was attending our [workplace] Christmas dinner in the Menlo Park Hotel when my line manager, Anita Cosgrave, called me and told me I was chosen to be a finalist. I was stunned, I was gobsmacked, I couldn’t believe it. I’m still reeeling from it, I never expected it. I’m not a person to be out in front, I like to be in the background.”
Breege was one of four finalists from all over the country who were nominated by their clients for their tireless efforts and the kindness they demonstrate in their caring role. She says it was a “great honour” and a “fantastic feeling” to be chosen.
She began her career in 1986 working first as a home help with the then Western Health Board in the Caherlistrane/Headford/Corrandulla area. She went on to work with the Irish Wheelchair Association for 12 years and joined Comfort Keepers in June of last year. She looks after people in their own homes in Galway city as well as rural areas such as Cregmore and Lackagh.
The fact that she came from a big family, six sisters and two brothers, meant she was well used to caring for others, she says.
“I was always looking after people, I always loved caring since childhood. I would recommend it to others.
“If you don’t love your job, you have no business in it. Making a difference, however small, in someone’s life is important, caring is a rewarding job and I love it. You are helping them remain in their own homes. I get great satisfaction from that.”
She mainly looks after people aged 50 to 90 years but has one client who is 101 years old and is “bright and breezy”.
For many of them, Breege’s friendly face is the only one they will see all day. “You get very fond of them. Your visit is often the highlight of their day. These are people who gave all their lives to building up this country and it is great to be able to give them something back. They give so much to me, they are so grateful for the smallest thing you do for them. They are the salt of the earth and we have a lot to learn from them.
“I’m very sad when I lose any of them. I lost one client who was 89. He was a pure gent. I miss him everyday.”
Comfort Keepers provides quality care to older people in their homes in 18 counties and 24 HSE administrative areas. It is estimated that 28 per cent of Irish nursing home residents have a low to moderate dependency level and many might have continued to live at home if the appropriate supports were available.