There are 12,032 people living in Sligo, Leitrim and Donegal who by their daily activities save the Irish state €200 million per year - or, given that we have all got used to talking in billions - that amounts to €1 billion over a 5 year period.
I'm sure many of you are wondering, who are these people? Do I know any of them? How do they save such a large amount of money?
You may well be one of those people yourself or somebody in your family might be. It could, perhaps, be a neighbour or a colleague. Almost 5% of the population of the 3 counties are in this group. They are ordinary people who in many cases do extraordinary things. These people are Carers.
They are not a separate group of people, they are not chosen in any special way - they are ordinary people, many of whom never ever expected to find themselves in the role of Carer. Sometimes they care for an elderly person, a father or grandmother. Sometimes for a young child with special needs, sometimes for a teenager who has sustained significant injuries, sometimes for the unexpected stroke or brain injury patient - the list is endless and in many cases the circumstances are unexpected, not planned for and often with little or no choice on behalf of the Carer. It can take over their lives, dominate their every waking hour and absorb much if not all of their energy and patience. Quality of life or "me time" often becomes a thing of the past and coping with the day to day demands becomes the focus of their lives.
Very many Carers are happy to care and wouldn't dream of having it otherwise. It is the human thing to do, and it's a natural instinct for many. Caring happens behind the closed door of the family home, but that should never make it invisible. Caring does not appear as part of our GDP or balance of payments, but that does not diminish its value.
Carers are people like you and me, and any one of us could be called upon to fill that role - indeed, many of us will be. We could also be the person needing care and indeed the longer we live, the more likely it is that we will either need care or give care.
Carers are not saints but in general they are up there with the good guys. But they are still human and have only finite energy, finite resources and a finite ability to cope.
As I write this, it is National Carers Week, so I would urge you to help out where you can. An hour or two of respite can be a godsend, the difference between carrying on or cracking up for the Carer concerned.
Any burden no matter how heavy becomes lighter when shared. Why not try - when and where you can - to lighten that load, and hope that when your turn comes, there will be somebody to help with the heavy lifting.