Care worker stories

Sophie, Domiciliary Carer at Caretree

Sophie, aged 49, was born in France and moved to Oxford aged 18 to learn English. Sophie stayed in the city and then made Abingdon her home for the past 25 years, during which time she married and raised a family. She also worked for 10 years as a manager for a car hire company.

Sophie took the step to become a domiciliary care worker around three years ago when her children started secondary school and she had more time on her hands; she had already gained some caring experience having looked after an elderly neighbour. In 2014, she joined Caretree, which is a private company based in Abingdon supporting older people in Oxfordshire to live at home.

She currently works two mornings a week visiting older people in Abingdon and the surrounding villages. Sophie assists them getting out of bed, helping them to wash and take their medications. Sophie explains why she is passionate about her job.

“I really love my job and find it very satisfying. Many of the older people I visit are lonely and have nobody in their lives; but I like to brighten up their day and make them laugh. I’m very chatty which along with my French accent helps keep them engaged. I do feel valued by them as they come to rely on me and appreciate the support I provide.

“To be a care worker you need to be a good listener, kind and hard working. You shouldn’t become a carer for the money; it’s about having a passion for looking after someone – if you only do it for the money you are in the wrong job.

“I’ve discovered you need to know a person well to make a difference to their lives. Once I get to know their needs I can help people more. It is a tiring job because of the physical nature of the work but I’ve had good training so I am able to cope.

“The job really suits me because of the flexible hours; it’s really up to me if I do more than two mornings a week. I would encourage people to become a care worker because we need more of them. People really do value me and thank me all the time which makes it so rewarding.”

Irene, Domiciliary Carer at Caretree

Irene, 60, is a domiciliary carer for Caretree, a private company based in Abingdon, which supports older people in Oxfordshire to live at home.
Irene has been a care worker with the company for the past four years, and helps around 25 mainly older people with daily tasks. These include getting them in and out of bed, helping them to wash and cook meals, and assisting them with their medication.

Before becoming a care worker, Irene was a florist for 30 years and a shop assistant. When she was younger, Irene was a member of a choir that travelled the world; she now uses her singing talents to entertain the people she looks after. Irene got the taste for care work looking after her mother-in-law at home, and before that caring for her parents. She currently works 30 hours a week and explains why she enjoys her job.

“I really like getting to know my clients; but you have to be caring and respectful to ensure they have a good quality of life. I enjoy singing to them and I have a full repertoire of songs which keeps them cheerful and brings a smile to their faces, which is so satisfying. I might also do some flower arranging with people, which always perks them up.

“If you want to be a care worker you need to be patient, understanding and have a sense of humour. I treat the people I support as my equals not as children. They are older people and most can remember very clearly what happened in their past, and they actually like it when I bring out a memory in them.

“I enjoy the flexible hours in my job, being able to work when it suits me. And I’m supported by a good team who always back me up and I’ve been trained well. My clients also make me feel valued; often many don’t want me to leave their homes when I visit because they like the friendship, having a good sing song, and being made to laugh – that’s so important for older people and helps keep them independent at home. However, it can be a hard job at times, and if things don’t go to plan you may end up putting in more hours; but it is a very rewarding career.’

Rumi, Health Care Assistant at Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust

Rumi, aged 51, is a Health Care Assistant, working for Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust since 2014. Currently, he is based at the Warneford Hospital in Oxford on a mental health ward.

As part of this job, Rumi is piloting a therapeutic conservation project at the hospital which was launched about six months ago. Up to 20 patients are involved in the initiative installing bird boxes and caring for wildlife in the grounds of the hospital to support their on-going treatment.

From January 2018, Rumi will include former patients in the project to ensure they can benefit from it as part of their continuing care.
Prior to this job, Rumi worked at the trust’s Fulbrook Centre at the Churchill Hospital in Oxford, supporting older adults with mental health conditions.

As a mature student, Rumi studied environmental resource management at Middlesex University for three years in the early 1990s. While studying, Rumi worked part time at a special school teaching computer skills to youngsters. He had his first taste of care work supporting children with learning disabilities when he was a teenager.

After graduating, he started his own renewable energy company in Oxford but at the same time he worked on a casual basis at the O’Hanlon House shelter in Oxford, assisting homeless people, and he also worked as a part time care worker.

Rumi decided to become a full-time care worker in 2013 and will be moving up the career ladder when he starts studying for a nursing qualification in mental health from next year. He describes his job:

“My current job is very rewarding especially when I see my patients recover from illness and leave the hospital not wanting to harm themselves. My job is not about money, even though it helps to pay the rent. For me it’s about the enjoyment of working with patients and my colleagues.

“I’m supported by a great matron who ensures patients are well cared for, and who takes the time to listen to all staff opinions about the way we provide care. I like this approach and makes me feel appreciated and valued. I’ve been given the opportunity by the hospital to pilot a therapeutic project – with the support of my colleagues. This demonstrates the confidence they have in me. I also use my training in mindfulness to help patients with mental wellbeing.

“To be a care worker in mental health you need to be compassionate, show empathy and be gentle because we see patients at their most vulnerable. But you also need to be tough and resilient. Being physically fit is important as is being a good communicator, with good written skills, as I regularly write reports about patients and send emails to colleagues.

“I would definitely recommend this job. I’ve received good training which has been very relevant for my job, such as the smoking cessation course which has helped some patients to reduce their habit. There are also opportunities to progress with my career in mental health.”

Case study: Anita Crook, Trainee Assistant Practitioner at Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust

Anita Crook, aged 46, is a Trainee Assistant Practitioner at Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust (OH) and is based at the NHS Fiennes Centre in Banbury.  Anita’s job is to provide care to anyone over the age of 18 but in particular to support frail and vulnerable people in their homes. This includes providing clinical care ranging from taking blood pressures, wound dressings and assisting with end of life care.

Anita works alongside her colleagues supporting patients in the community in Banbury and surrounding villages with the aim of preventing illnesses from becoming more serious and keeping people them out of hospital.

Anita has been a care worker since she was 18, working in nursing homes and with people with learning disabilities. She moved into her current role over two years ago and is also studying for a foundation degree learning new clinical skills to become an Assistant Practitioner.

Anita explains why she enjoys her job:

“I’ve been a care worker since I was 18 so I have plenty of experience looking after people, which I enjoy. My current job allows me to use my clinical skills and to communicate with patients – both these aspects of my job are very important and if they help make a patient more comfortable even for one day that is great.

“In this job you need to develop relationships with patients so you can sit down with them, listen to their needs and provide the support they want. Sure, we all have off days but you need to leave this behind you and be professional and work with a smile on your face. I think the key qualities are understanding, patience and flexibility.

“I really would recommend this job to other people because I’m not stuck in an office and I have a great deal of autonomy to carry out my varied tasks as part of a hard working team. I definitely feel valued and appreciated by my colleagues who support me with my job and my studies – they have been brilliant.

“In this job you get back what you put in which for me is a great deal of satisfaction.”