By Helen Ducal
Your country needs you!
Home, holidays and identity.
The schools are back and summer is drawing to a close but if I mentioned leaving home for two weeks you might think. Packing, sea, sun, sangria and holidays.
But for many of us, returning home is a holiday.
We are live-in carers and packing to leave home for two weeks means a leap into the unknown…of the furry slippers, disturbed sleep and adapting to a stranger’s daily routine, kind.
I wish I had a fiver for every client that thinks their ‘way of life’ is not only normal but is adamant it should be.
Image: Palm Beach, NSW. Summer Bay in Home and Away.
On the plus side I have met the most wonderful, kind lovable people and the memories will last my lifetime.
It’s a lottery.
But one that only lasts, on average for two weeks.
And then you return to your normal life…or do you?
Staying in an Airbnb recently I met with a live-in carer who has been working for 8 years and she was so close to being burnt out I was concerned.
She had written a blog anonymously, hence I won’t be naming her. She felt her own personality was being destroyed by her experiences. I was shocked and started to wonder how many other would resonate with this feeling, for that surely is what it is, a feeling, however powerful.
Here is an excerpt…
This is the opening sentence.
Working as a live-in carer has taken away so much of my confidence and personality.
After doing the job for a few years I realised I had little to add to most conversations, my mind processes had slowed down with the shrinking of the space and tasks I now undertook.
You feel vulnerable and so your body tries to protect you by shutting down emotions, but this only makes you feel more insecure!
But she does finish with this sound advice.
Get outside in your break times – open the door as soon as your break starts and don’t come back until it ends – walk, go to a coffee shop, sit in the park, go for a drive, anything to get away and be yourself. Meet other carers when you can, talk to the newsagent or the people who you pass on your walks, keep talking to people, online or face-to-face; this is where people lose so much confidence or the ability to interact, jobs where client/carer conversations are limited could be likened to solitary confinement.
In addition, remember who you are – a valuable person – so treat yourself as someone special. Wear make-up, put on your non-work clothes to go out on your break, plan treats for yourself – a coffee or a cruise or anything in between!
I asked her how long her assignments usually lasted. Five to six weeks! In my opinion therein lies the problem. Too long!
When I began 26 years ago I saw myself as …the long lost niece visiting an ancient aunt in the country. A guest, but there to help.
Image: Phoenicia hotel, Malta. 5 star bliss.
And 26 years ago this was a good description. Sadly the agency I joined all those years ago has lost sight of any such comparison.
But one agency, Care and Choice has maintained the respect and loyalty that only good care agencies can achieve. Thank goodness.
People behave differently with different people and there’s the crux.
If first impressions are not good don’t worry things can improve, even totally turn around in 48 hours but some can never be saved.
Just in case you think with my 26 years experience I must be such a clever clogs, let me share with you my worst experience and it was totally my fault.
So, picture it. I arrive at a client’s house, fully informed that the lady has a strict kosher kitchen and has dementia.
I researched which foods can be placed together or not in the fridges. I was ready to do whatever was needed to comply with the client’s needs and wishes. Anyone who knows me will understand when I say, I don’t have a Poker face. I may not say anything but if I find something weird my face often lets me down.
This I was prepared to work on. No eye rolling when shown, however many times, how things must be.
It’s true, home alone, my fridge is random at best…but someone elses’ home. I got this. I can do this. I had even made notes so I could look well versed in all things Kosher.
Plus, I am genuinely interested in food and how different cultures prepare and eat food.
With my flawless preparation I arrive at the client’s tiny bungalow.
It’s pouring with rain, cold and a howling gale and my client refuses to let me in. Great start. I phone her son who phones his mother and I am finally allowed entry. Drip, drip, shudder.
In the next 10 minutes my best laid plans were shot to pieces and I was nowhere near the fridge.
I consider myself pretty well travelled and can cope with/understand most accents except broad Scots. Nae canne do.
I also know this petite, angry looking lady has dementia.
I was prepared for anything except her voice.
I have worked in the east End of London and coped with cockney accents, no problem but this lady was Catherine Tate aka Nan to a tee.
I was lost. I honestly initially thought she was putting it on…free funny voice to ease the carer in. Wrong. This was her normal speaking voice.
I endeavoured to do and say all the right things but I lasted one week out of two.
The son was confused. How could I get it so wrong? His mother hated me and even went as far as to throw out all the food in case I had touched it.
It wasn’t until the agency, the one I had worked for 16 years, admitted that I was the 3rd carer to leave in less than 3 weeks I felt slightly off the hook.
It takes all sorts.
But there is only one you and you are precious.
Your country needs you!