Derry sisters Lauren and Chloe named Irish Carers of the Year

Two big-hearted homecare workers who took up residence with a vulnerable client after she tested positive for Covid-19 have been named ‘Irish Carers of the Year’.

Sisters Lauren and Chloe Kelly from Aghanloo, Limavady, won the prestigious Home and Community Care Ireland (HCCI) award during a ceremony in the Shelbourne Hotel, Dublin on Thursday last.

The Connected Health care assistants set aside risks to their own health when they temporarily moved in with new client, Laura Magee, after she contracted coronavirus in October 2020.

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Laura, who is from Derry’s Waterside, requires 24-hour assistance and only started receiving home care in August 2020, having spent long periods in hospital.

SISTERS OF MERCY . . . Joint winners of HCCI Carer of the Year award, Co Derry sisters Lauren and Chloe Kelly from Connected Health, pictured receiving their award during a ceremony at the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin on Thursday, October 21. (Naoise Culhane)

Fondly dubbed ‘sisters of mercy’, the inspirational Connected Health duo hit the headlines during last year’s lockdown, when they were hailed as ‘true heroes’.

Connected Health Director of People Julie Cordner, said: “A massive congratulations is due to Lauren and Chloe on this outstanding recognition which is no less deserved. They really are true heroes and we are proud and privileged to have them as part of our wonderful Connected Health family.

“Thank you to Home and Community Care Ireland for the recognition of the amazing acts of kindness Lauren and Chloe performed, especially during these particularly hard times for the most vulnerable people in our society. Going above and beyond the call of duty like this is a prime example of the tremendous bonds that Connected Health care assistants form with clients.”

The inaugural Home and Community Care Ireland (HCCI) Home Care awards - supported by First Ireland Insurance Brokers – involved a independent judging panel including TV presenter and designer, Brendan Courtney; Professor Thomas Kearns, Executive Director, Faculty of Nursing & Midwifery RCSI; Katie Sloan, CEO Leading Age, USA; and Sandra Tuohy, Assistant National Director, Operations and Services for Older People HSE.

Pictured (l-r) Chloe Kelly, Connected Health Care Assistant, Laura Magee, Connected Health client, and Lauren Kelly, Connected Health Care Assistant.

After picking up the award, Lauren said: “We’d like to thank everyone at Connected Health. It’s been a tough time through Covid, but we got through it - as carers do - and we all pulled together. It’s great to get recognised for the work that we did.”

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Joseph Musgrave, CEO, HCCI, said: “Heartfelt congratulations to Lauren and Chloe Kelly on winning Carers of the Year. We are very lucky to have people like them working in homecare. Their care and selflessness make a real difference to their care clients and colleagues, and they should be very proud of their achievement.”

The sisters have also been shortlisted in this month’s Home Care Insight and Care Home Professional ‘Leaders in Care Awards’ 2021, winning a nomination for the prestigious UK ‘Frontline Carer of the Year’ accolade.

The recognition for “going well above and beyond the call of duty” is more than deserved, adds Ms Cordner.

Laura Magee was in hospital awaiting a package of care when she first met Lauren and Chloe. The sisters volunteered as part of a wider Connected Health team to help relieve critical hospital staffing pressures caused by Covid-19 in the Western Trust area.

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Ms Cordner explains: “The nursing staff in the hospital were so impressed with the relationship that Laura built with the Connected Health team that they approached us to take on her care package in the community.

“The two sisters are true heroes for their selfless attitudes and caring actions. As an employer, we at Connected Health are truly delighted that they have been recognised for their leadership, resilience and kindness,” Ms Cordner added.

Lauren had also tested positive for Covid-19 but, rather than isolating alone, she made the selfless decision to move in with Laura, explaining that it made “perfect sense” to do so. Initially, Chloe did not test positive for Covid-19 but after making the brave decision to join her sister, she also started displaying symptoms within a few days

At the height of her illness, Laura suffered a seizure brought on by a high temperature and needed emergency medical assistance. Lauren and Chloe both administered first aid while waiting for the ambulance and rapid response vehicle. Thankfully, Laura was treated at home and was able to remain there. All three fully recovered from Covid-19.

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“It was so kind for them to come live with me…I was terrified about maybe having to go back to hospital,” Laura Magee said.

Ms Cordner added: “The 24/7 care delivered to Laura has been exceptional and has resulted in her remaining at home as well as significant improvements in her mental and physical health. Connected Health carers have enabled Laura to reintegrate into the community and build relationships with her friends, as well as providing peace of mind to her family and next of kin.”