THE BEST AND WORST DECISIONS I HAVE MADE
Jadwiga Leigh is an out-of-hours children’s social worker for Tameside Council
When I was 19 I took a summer job as a care assistant in a nursing home. On my first day I was given a “toileting list” which consisted of times when I was to take certain residents to the toilet.
“But what if they don’t want to go to the toilet at 10.25 in the morning?” I asked
“Well they have to wait until 2.25 in the afternoon,” came the reply.
I threw the piece of paper in the bin and asked each person to shout when they needed to go. The residents loved it – and those who didn’t know what was going on joined in the fun for the hell of it.
Next came the “bathing list”. I had to bathe four residents in an hour. My first bather was Claire. She had dementia and when she arrived for her bath she was surprised to find it full of bubbles and scented oils. After her long relaxing soak we found her best dress and she put on some make-up. The look on her face when she looked in the mirror melted my heart.
Saying goodbye was difficult but I met people who I now believe shaped my future. It took a further seven years before I considered social work as an option but there has never been a day when I have regretted my decision.
I now work for a children’s emergency duty team and I may not earn as much as my friends but I love my job and that to me means a whole lot more.
Trying to pursue a profession in an office was by far the worst decision I have ever made. Fortunately, I didn’t waste too many years trying to carve a meaningless career out of purchasing electrical components before I realised that it just wasn’t for me.
Many of my friends were all pursuing careers in marketing and I thought that earning large quantities of money was the direction in which I should head.
As a buyer, I worked in a mundane office that had plyboard partitions around every desk in order to create the illusion that we each had our own office. Everyone wore suits and conversations were limited to riveting business deals.
I was living in London and my wages were so low initially that they barely covered my rent and bills.
Then one day I came across an advert in Loot for a tent manageress in France, no experience required.
I didn’t have to think about it. I gave in my notice and fled.
This article is published in the 10 December 2009 edition of Community Care under the headline “Summer job in a care home shaped my future”