“It is a privilege to be welcomed into someone’s home and to work with them in their daily lives”
Working in home care is not for the faint hearted, however, for the amazing individuals that do work in home care it is, even with the challenges, a particularly rewarding career. It is a privilege to be welcomed into someone’s home and to work with them in their daily lives experiencing all their different highs and lows. The relationship between care and support workers and those they provide services to can be something extremely emotional to behold.
I personally have many stories and great memories from working in home care both as a care and support worker and as a manager. I started working as a care worker at the age of 24 and it made me into the person I am today. I learnt so much from the people I supported from practical skills to seeing different perspectives and learning some good old-fashioned wisdom.
When I started as a new care worker, even with comprehensive training, it can be an overwhelming experience going into people’s homes and assisting them with their complex needs. Learning how to assist an individual to move in a training session is quite different from assisting an actual person with various health concerns and mobility issues. I was very fortunate to receive great support from wonderful supervisors who were able to demonstrate the job and mentor new staff members with little or no previous care experience. Care and support workers who had worked in care for many years and had that innate and natural ability to build relationships with people in challenging situations and to make a difference to their lives. These experienced workers provide reassurance and comfort at distressing times in a person’s life and are invaluable when showing new workers that important aspect of the role. Many practical skills are transferable and can be taught but having compassion and empathy for others in distress and understanding their needs is at the heart of the job the social care workforce does.
I will never forget the supervisor who received a round of applause upon completing roughly five minutes of the Great Scottish Run in order to get from one side of the road to the other. The crowd watching the run responded with joy and laughter when the supervisor set off at a jog in pace of the runners to weave her way through the crowd.
This is a lighthearted example but there are so many more of staff going above and beyond to help and care for the service users they support. This often means taking time out of their own lives and personal time to stay with someone who is unwell or has fallen. Home care workers rearrange their own commitments and responsibilities to ensure that the individual has a familiar face and someone there to provide comfort while they are waiting on an ambulance and are in pain or unwell.
I had the absolute privilege to accompany staff during the extreme adverse weather we experienced when the “Beast from the East” came to Glasgow. Staff were walking though knee-deep snow and found the solution of wearing poly bags over their socks and inside their boots to try to keep their feet warm and dry. On an occasion where people were being advised to stay at home and protect themselves, care and support staff, among others, were out walking through the snow and blizzards to get to people in their homes and give them the care and support they needed.
Within all types of social care valuable relationships are made but it is so inspiring especially as a manager of a home care service when you find that match between care and support worker and service user that is life changing for that individual. I have seen first-hand the difference that special person can make especially when people have experienced mental health problems and periods of stress and aguish caused by a change in life circumstances. To see someone flourish under the right support after a time that they thought they would never get back to the person they had been is so rewarding for all involved.
I loved my job as a home care manager going out and meeting some fantastic individuals and hearing stories of their lives and personal experiences. I met an elderly lady who had worked at the age of 16 during the war on a forty-foot crane and had walked along the gantry whistling with her hands in her pockets. People are full of surprises from all walks of life and have so much to offer to the younger generations. This is an important aspect of social care and we must realise that these relationships can go both ways and benefit both the care worker and service user. Staff often express their pleasure in some of the things that they learn from the people they support, and you can see this empowers the service user too when sharing their life skills with others.
Amongst the current challenges it is important to remember the positive aspects of this sector and the good times that happen too. I will leave you with a story that I feel encompasses home care: I was talking with a provider who told me that during the torrential rain we had back in September they had been calling their staff working out and about in the community to see how they were getting on. When the manager of the service had spoken with one staff member they had responded that they were absolutely fine: they had been soaked to the skin while getting to their first call, however, they were now getting dry and were nice and warm in the service users home having a cup of tea together and planning the day ahead. That to me gives a true example of the sharing of lives and experiences and the wonderful benefits that home care can bring to both the workforce and those they care and support.
Workforce Policy & Practice Lead, Scottish Care