What is it really like to be a carer? Times’ care campaign aims to find out...
PUBLISHED: 07:39 06 October 2017 | UPDATED: 07:41 06 October 2017
The Times has been delving into the care industry over the past few months, and exploring the funding challenges, stigma and recruitment issues facing some of North Somerset’s many carers. Reporter Sheridan Robins spent the day with a Clevedon-based care company to get a feel for what it is like for carers on a day-to-day basis.
Access Your Care has a 24-hour response team, and also provides private care to those in need across North Somerset.
The care is provided in their own home, in a tactic designed to preserve people’s independence.
The company works closely with North Somerset Community Partnership, which provides NHS community health services in the district, and so bridges the gap between emergency health care and social care.
This means the care agency works closely with district nurses, paramedics and doctors, depending on the needs of the patients.
Heidi Dyer is a community responder, and told the Times she wants people to realise carers are the first port of call in a lot of cases and feels the job should be more widely-recognised.
She said: “We still get the stigma that we just clear up people’s mess. But there is so much more to it, and I can honestly say I love my job.
“I do day shifts, night shifts and on-call shifts and I have been here for three years and during that time it has grown dramatically and I have achieved a lot of qualifications.
“We want people to see it is a career and can be a stepping stone to other jobs in health and social care.”
Natasha Hunt is a team leader and took me along on one of her home visits.
Mr Williams lives in Long Ashton and his wife has dementia. The condition means she cannot speak or walk, and is so severe he has had enlist outside help and support in caring for her – something he describes as a ‘heartbreaking’ decision to make.
He said: “I had to have carers come in from November last year.
“It got the point where I could not look after her any more. It was heartbreaking but there was no other choice.
“Having them come in has not only been a huge support for my wife, but also for me.
“Just to have someone to have a laugh and a cup of tea with, is amazing and I wouldn’t be without them.
“I quickly learned which ones I can really have a joke with. People forget it is not just the patient who needs to be supported, but also the family.
“They go above and beyond and they also know all about her medical issues and the medication she needs, so I don’t have to worry.”
What really struck me was not only the genuine appreciation Mr Williams had for Natasha and her colleagues, but also how much medical knowledge they have.
He valued the company and the fact they often help out with jobs such as doing the washing, which is above his expectations.
Natasha then told Mr Williams and I the secret behind being a carer.
She said when she trains new carers she makes sure they undertake the ‘mum test’.
This means when you have completed all the tasks in the person’s home, you take a moment to assess your level of care, and make sure you would be happy with it if it was your mum and dad.
What the workers really wanted to show was while caring has its bad days and challenges – as many jobs do – there are rewarding moments, like with the grateful Mr Williams, which make it worthwhile.
Natasha also told me everyone has a ‘caring side to them’ but it takes someone special to be a carer.
She said: “It is not for everyone but there are moments when I realise how lucky I am.”