Limerick Carer of the Year struggling to keep a roof over her head

Limerick Carer of the Year Colette O'Shea at the family home in Lisnagry.

MOTHER-of-three Colette O’Shea from Lisnagry was genuinely surprised to hear she had been named Limerick Carer of the Year last week.

“I feel I’m just doing what anyone would do in this situation,” she told the Limerick Post.

But what many people would do if they saw their husband have a personality change before their eyes and become unrecognisable as the man they married is hard to say.

Five years ago, Kieran O’Shea (47) began acting strangely.

“He started hoarding things, like sticks and timber. He would bring home carloads of it. He said he was going to build a tree-house for the kids, but we don’t even have a tree,” Colette said.

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He became withdrawn and went from being an involved, loving father to being indifferent to his children.

“I finally realised there was something really wrong when we went to the bank. It was four days after Kieran’s pay day and it was all gone.

“We had been saving a small amount for the children’s university education, about €10,000, and that was gone as well.”

A trawl of bank accounts showed that money had been flying out on a daily basis in online subscriptions that her husband had taken out.

“It was like living in the Twilight Zone. I didn’t know what was happening.

“Then Kieran started getting muscle cramps and his speech became very slurred.”

It was five years into the transformation, in January this year, that Kieran was diagnosed with dementia and motor neurone disease.

“I was told he will have one and a half to two years. His type of dementia is caused by a particular gene.”

So far, the condition mostly affects Kieran’s upper body, but his mobility is also affected.

To add to the family troubles, one of the children has also been diagnosed with serious health issues which need careful handling.

“The kids really miss their dad. There’s very little of him there anymore. At least with the diagnosis I know now what was going on,” said Colette.

Because he became increasingly unable to handle basic jobs, the house, which the couple share with their children – aged 8, 10 and 11 – has fallen into major disrepair.

The roof needs replacing, the drains need major work and, in all, bringing the house up to a condition that will make it suitable for Kieran’s deteriorating health and his family’s needs will cost around €300,000.

A fundraising campaign has been started by family friends to help the O’Sheas on crowdfunding platform Go Fund Me.

They have set a crowdfunding target of €100,000 to help modify the house to meet the family’s needs.

The O’Shea Go Fund Me page can be found here