Carer of the Year Louise Laheen Duggan on the accident that changed everything for her
Injured in a terrible horseriding accident 18 years ago, that incident had "a profound effect" on Galway woman Louise Laheen Duggan, who says it's actually what inspired her to become a carer.
The winner of this year’s Right at Home Carer of the Year award, Galway native Louise Laheen Duggan was honoured at a special ceremony up in Dublin last November.
One of six nominees in the running for the prestigious accolade, judges Dr. Sinead Kane, Louis Copeland and Sophie Moran of Ibec, described her as “an outstanding individual”, commending her for her kindness and dedication to those she looks after.
Here she tells IMAGE about why she decided to become a carer, what her job entails and the women who have shaped her throughout her life.
Inspired to become a carer just three years ago, Louise’s passion stems from personal experience when she sustained multiple serious injuries and everything changed. An avid horserider for much of her life, she was in competition when she, unfortunately, fell from her horse and broke several bones as a result.
“I had a very bad fall from a horse while competing many years ago. I sustained multiple injuries, I fractured several vertebrae, broke my ribs, had surgery on my shoulder and had a plate put in,” she told me before explaining that this accident had “a profound effect” on her.
“I will forever be grateful for the excellent care I received from the doctors, nurses, paramedics etc. It was from that time that I decided I wanted to have a role in a caring capacity.”
Subsequently getting a job as a special needs assistant at a local school, Louise worked there up until three years ago when the opportunity came up to become a carer at the Galway premises of Right at Home. She decided to go for it and the rest is history as they say.
According to Natalie Crowe, managing director of Right at Home Galway, Louise has been amazing since day. “She’s just so passionate about her role and is a natural carer,” she added. For many of Louise’s clients, she’s often the only person they see during the day so safe to say that her visits mean an awful lot.
Explaining a bit more about what her role entails, Louise says that her job can differ and vary from client to client, depending on their needs… and, as many others have already testified, she’s extremely passionate about what she does.
“We offer home care services for almost any family and practically any situation. Our in-home care lets loved ones enjoy healthy lives in the comfort of a familiar environment. I tailor my services to my client’s unique situation through a personalised care plan – people with limited mobility or people who need short term respite care, for example – and we do this all whilst promoting independence, privacy, and own choice in a dignified way.”
“Being a carer means giving comfort, encouragement, reassurance, overseeing a client’s health and well-being, monitoring their safety and helping a client to remain independent in their own home for as long as possible,” she tells me. “It’s about being that friendly face that a client sees each day. My face may well be the only face that they will see that day, it definitely was during the pandemic.
“It’s a chat, sharing a joke, laughing together. I am often their lifeline between being alone and having someone to interact with.”
While there are many standout parts of her job that she enjoys, it’s being able to help people live comfortably that really makes it worthwhile for Louise. “Knowing that I am helping someone to live an independent life, in the security and comfort of their own home is the best part of what I do. I am doing something for someone who cannot do that task for themselves.
“I love the chats, the laughs – I’m a people person so I really enjoy the interaction! I also love how humble and grateful some situations have made me, you learn to enjoy and appreciate the little things in life more.”
Inspired by any number of women in her own life, Louise credits her grandmother with having a profound effect on her. “My grandmother was a wonderful, patient, loving individual. I’ve been blessed to have had strong female role models in my life, like my two aunts – Anne and Mary Margaret.
“Dr. Sinead Kane is another inspirational Irish woman I admire. I’ve met Sinead in person and had the opportunity to listen to her speak at the Right at Home National Carer of the Year Awards 2021, and I was just in awe of all she has accomplished, she’s a double Guinness world record holder! She never let her disability define her either. She’s one impressive lady.”