By Sheila, a home care worker for Bluebird Care in York
I arrive for my first appointment at 6.45am. Florence* is 88-years-old, lives alone and needs help starting her day. Although my shift doesn’t actually start until 7am, I always like to arrive early because I know she’ll be looking out the window and awaiting my arrival.
For many of my clients, I’m the only person they’ll see in a day, so it’s important to make sure they know they are the focus of my attention during a visit.
I help Florence get washed and dressed and make her some breakfast. I tidy her surroundings and ensure she is settled, safe and secure. But, most importantly, I talk to her and listen to how she’s feeling.
We see many reports in the media at the moment about ‘clock-watch care’, where visits are restricted to 15 minutes or less. A recent story even claimed that half a million home care visits last less than five minutes – it would be impossible for me to get anything done that is of value to people in this short time.
The minimum amount of time I spend with a client is 30 minutes, which means I can take the time to find out about their unique qualities, rather than just viewing them as a checklist of needs.
Florence is certainly worth more than just a tick on my rota, she’s a fascinating lady. I’ve got to know her little ways such as making that cup of tea just the way she likes it – with a squeeze of lemon and a drop of honey.
Paying attention to the finer details and adapting to each call is an essential part of my role. As well as Florence, I can see another four to five people throughout the day – some days I will see up to 12 clients, depending on their needs.
‘I can’t sing for toffee’
Later, when I am with another customer, I turn my hand to making a bacon sandwich. John* likes the bread slightly toasted and with a slight smear of mustard – his favourite.
Another one of my clients is a nervous, self-conscious lady but I discovered one day that she relaxes more if I sing to her. I can’t sing for toffee but now I do this while helping her get washed and dressed – it’s all about helping my clients in a variety of ways.
I’ve found that my sense of fun appears to be an effective way of connecting with many of my clients, who are themselves such characters with wonderful stories to tell.
Caring for others is a huge responsibility and I feel enormous privilege to be given that trust. I know that it must be a daunting experience to accept someone other than family into your home and life.
I was inspired to work in home care after caring for my own husband, mother and daughter during illness and before they died, so I know first-hand the importance of helping people feel as comfortable as possible in their own environment.
There are huge positives to working in care. It’s a career where you can get an enormous sense of personal achievement from knowing you are helping others. The opportunity to make a real difference to someone’s life is a wonderful and rewarding experience.
**Names of Sheila’s clients have been changed out of confidentially