“Why don’t you apply for this care job…?”

Before me and my sister started having care, I didn’t really know how awful the care sector is.  Yes I’d heard some of the horror stories but I guess I’d always assumed that they were the exception.

(I’d like to add that from talking to other people, my care company, on the whole, seems generally to be one of the better ones…)

I think for me there are a few issues:

  •     quality of staff
  •     availability of staff
  •     quality of care companies
  •     late or missed care calls
  •     too many different carers going into people’s homes
  •     perception of the role

For now, to start with, I’ll be looking at the perception of the role of carers.

Caring (eg personal carers, childcare, medical care) is one of few jobs where not doing it well will have a massive impact on someone, quite possibly risking their health and wellbeing.  Few jobs have this level of responsibility.  And most jobs within a caring field are not well paid and that responsibility is not recognised.

Anyone who follows me on Twitter or has heard me talk about my carers will know CC – crap carer. I joke about her incompetencies (that’s a blog post all of its own – coming soon!) but the reality is that when she appears on my rota I am filled with dread. Half the time I am cancelling her because dealing with her is more damaging to my mental health than the benefit of her limited support.

This means that some evenings (I can’t cancel her in the morning because I can’t open my meds or get dressed), I am sleeping in my clothes and either getting friends to help with food and drink or struggling with them myself.

Given my health, I really struggle to get the lid on and off my drinks bottle so have had days where I’ve been eeking out my juice so i last until my next call.  Food wise, all I can manage on my own is finger food. Essentially I’m limited to sausage rolls or…no, I’ve been thinking, between being unable to open things or cut them up, I can’t think of much else I can manage.

That said, when she is with me, I don’t eat much better. She can’t cook, and she can’t follow instructions. She ruined oven chips for gods sake. So I have to prepare the call before so all she has to do is microwave leftovers. I can’t even do things like oven chips or veggie sausages, partly because she is that awful but even if she does manage to cook, she doesn’t understand that I need things cutting up small. Every time I have to remind her to cut up my food, which is a humiliating, and every time she makes a half arsed attempt and I have to get her to do it again because a sausage cut in half is no use to me – I can’t cut it and they don’t balance well on my spoon. I have carefully explained why we cut up my food but it doesn’t seem to help…

Oops, I said this wasn’t going to be about CCs incompetence…  My point is that there is a huge impact on me, my health and wellbeing and my friends if one of my carers can’t do their job.

In the current climate it feels like more and more people are being pushed into caring. Think ‘Wanted: a very personal assistant ‘ which was on BBC3 a few weeks ago. In summary, it took unemployed young people and, without them knowing what the role was, they were interviewed and offered jobs supporting a young person with care needs.  The idea seems to be that people don’t even need to be making an informed decision about becoming a carer.  I know, from talking to people who are job hunting, that there is a push from the job centre to work as a carer or PA. Because there are no qualifications required (generally), it’s got a reputation as a job that anyone can do. This is not true!

1. Firstly, it’s really obvious to the client if you don’t want to be in the job, aren’t enjoying the job or even if you’re a good carer having a bad day. It’s such a personal, intimate relationship that you can’t miss it. BTW, bad days are fine, we all have them. If you don’t want to be here, that makes me feel awful. I am also far less likely to ask you to do things for me. If you are making me feel like an inconvenience, I will want you out of my house ASAP.

2. Secondly, it’s a full on job. I couldn’t spend that much time with another person/people having to support them with so much. And the carer has to be professional. Yes my carers have a bit of a whinge and moan about things with me but they also have to come with a smile and degree of cheerfulness even after a long shift- at the very least, don’t skulk in, avoid eye contact and run out (yes, CC, I’m looking at you).

3. Thirdly, it is PERSONAL care. I need a carer to sponge wash me, all of me. I can’t wash myself so I can’t have a carer who is squeamish about cleaning intimate parts of me (I don’t like euphamisms but not sure wordpress or google will like more specifics). The fact of it is, that I, just like everyone else need to be clean. And I know that there are many many people out there with more care needs than me. You cannot come into this job thinking you’re going to have a lovely time and how great it is to be helping people. That will be part of it, but you can’t avoid the other part. And I’m not sure, based on my newest carer, how much people are informed or prepared for that.

The above are not the only issues but for me they are three key reasons why a job in care isn’t for everyone.  Other things include the physical nature of the role, variable and often antisocial hours etc.

In summary…

Not everyone can be a carer. There may not be qualifications but there’s definitely some people who can do it and some who can’t.  More recognition and value needs to be placed on the role so we move away from this perception.