Care at home: “It’s definitely the most rewarding job you can do”

Free Press journalist Adam Gordon recently spoke to three people working across Skye in the care at home sector about the job satisfaction they enjoy in their roles, the flexibility the job brings, and how even the smallest gestures can make a big difference to people’s lives.

Helen Millington started working as a carer a year ago.

“I saw the job advertised while we were in the middle of Covid and lockdown, and I was looking for a job that suited me and suited my child care needs as I have a son who is now four,” she said.

“My neighbour did the same job, so I was able to speak to her and find out about it, and I applied for it even though I have never worked in care before – but working in the bank of staff seemed ideal.

“My mum works in care, although not for the NHS, and my sister works in the NHS, and I have seen how rewarding it is for them.

“I have never looked back – I absolutely love it.”

A vital service

Helen continued: “It is very rewarding knowing you have made a difference to someone and have brightened their day. That might have been sitting with that person for just 20 minutes or making them a cup of tea, but you might be the only person they might see that day.

“A lot of people we go to see are house-bound and can’t go out, and others haven’t been out in years because of their mobility and with lockdown.

“It is a vital service.”

Helen Millington believes even the smallest gestures can have a significantly positive impact.

It’s where I’ll stay

“It is definitely the most rewarding job you can do – I have no regrets at all. I love going to see so many different people – and working on the bank, you don’t do the same shifts, so you see a wide variety of people and no shifts are really the same.

“The people you see are absolutely lovely. I have a four-year-old boy – he must come first; family life must come first.

“If you work as part of the bank, you can work around family life as well, I think that is very important for anyone applying for this kind of job who might have children and have those commitments.”

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Zoe Docherty started working in the role in 2015.

I find it is rewarding in the sense that you are having a positive impact in someone’s life, such as making someone smile, even,” she said.

“That might sound cheesy, but if you walk in and find someone who is down or lonely, you can have a laugh with them and take their worries away even for five minutes and make them feel better.”

Deliberately bad dancing

Zoe continued: “There was a time where I was looking after a lady in palliative care, and she was in a lot of pain. 

“Me and another carer were with her, and it was around Christmas time. An advert came on the TV, I can’t remember the song, but the three of us were singing, and us two carers were dancing – deliberately bad. 

“I left there thinking that maybe even for a couple of moments she had maybe been able to forget the pain, or she didn’t feel it as much because we were just being daft and, in the moment, – times like that it feels really rewarding.”

Zoe Docherty says that her job gives her a sense of purpose.

Connection to the outside world

“I think people forget that there are folk here who are really isolated and don’t have family here. 

“Quite often I will walk into someone’s home, and they’ll say, ‘what’s happening in the town today, so you are their connection to the outside and they also get to know all the carers, so they’ll ask, how is such and such today – it makes them feel valued and cared for.”

A team effort and sense of purpose

“The most daunting part about home care can be the lone working element, but as a team we are very well connected, and we have a very good support network. So, although you are working on your own a lot physically, you are still very well supported.

“I am contracted to work four days on, four days off – I work in the evening and do extra shifts. I don’t think I have ever had such a sense of free time. It is nice because you can recharge.

“I think because the working conditions are so enjoyable is partly why so many people stay in home care for so many years.

“I don’t have any children or any dependants, so it is nice to feel needed, it gives me a sense of purpose and that’s another reason why I find it rewarding.”

Sarah Walker has been working as a carer for 18 months

“In 2019, I lost my mother, had a major operation, and was made redundant. In fact, all those things led me to apply for the job,” she said.

“When my mum was receiving end of life care, I saw what a difference it made to her to have people treat her as a person and not just a thing to be moved about – I saw that first-hand.

“I was also on the receiving end of both good and not so good care when I had my surgery.

“I didn’t feel that I would be suitable for the care sector as I hadn’t worked in that field before, but I gave Jenny White a call and I was offered a place working on the bank.”

Preconceived notions

Sarah continued: “I absolutely love the job, I had a preconceived idea of it being just about wiping bums – and there is a bit of that, of course, but first and foremost you are dealing with people and making a difference. 

“For me it is so important that I feel I am doing something worthwhile, I am appreciated.”

Sarah Walker decided to become a carer after seeing first-hand the difference they make to people’s lives.

Building relationships

“You can go into a situation where someone has had a fall but once you have left that person you know they are okay and you have done your job – but it could be a small thing like making someone smile, and it is sometimes just about listening.

“It is about building relationships with people and their families; I just think about how I would want my mother to be treated is how I try to be with everyone I meet.

“Having people skills is what it is predominantly about – Jenny took a chance on me, I didn’t have any experience directly – not having a health background or nursing background I thought there was no one I could go into that but there is training there and it’s ongoing.”

Images by Willie Urquhart.