In August 2003 I joined Christies Care and my life changed forever. I had taken up the challenge because firstly I really liked the idea of earning some money to fund a visit to my family in the UK and secondly to help pay off the mortgage on my house in South Africa.
My first client was a lady with severe Cerebral Palsy. She was living in a respite home until other accommodation was found for her. I found out that if I sang to her she would walk with me so I started singing every song I knew and even made them up after two weeks of being with her in the home. I even had other clients asking me to sing them songs.
It was then, I think, that I lost my heart to clients with learning disabilities and even though I have worked with many different clients I have always come back to working with LD clients. We all have strengths and weaknesses and, as a carer, it is so important to really find were you fit an be honest about it. Christies Care offer so much help in induction training and during retraining every year (which we all complain about but is so necessary). It highlights bad habits we may have developed and it keeps us in touch with changes that are constantly happening in the care world.
I have taken clients on holiday to Europe on many occasions and, even though that has its challenges, have really enjoyed every moment of it. Once more the carer needs to be so aware of the client’s needs to make sure everything is covered – from medication to insurance to travel documents. Keeping the client totally in the loop is essential so they know what to expect when they have to go through security at the airport. Even having to take off their shoes can be very challenging if they aren’t warned before hand.
I have learnt so much about myself and I know I have changed in so many ways. My daughter tells me that my grandchildren have a very patient Granny now – and I agree!
One of the most important things every carer needs to remember is that we are there to assist our clients and to listen to their needs, finding out how we can enhance their lives – not take over!
I love reading so its always great when I arrive at a clients house and the previous carer has left behind books that they have read. Always a treasure trove of new experiences and I’ve found some great new authors.
I enjoy knitting and one client has a basket at her house and we knit or crochet squares. There are so many charities needing blankets and little items and it is so special to get involved with this – and I’m not even increasing the weight of my suitcase!
It is so important to have time off, even if its just going for a walk it helps clear the cobwebs. I look on the internet for any places of interest nearby which I might be able to go to and also perhaps suggest to my client that they might like to visit- you would be amazed at how many like this.
I love what I do and even though I miss my family so much, the internet with Skype makes it so much easier to keep in touch and makes such a huge difference to my life as a live-in carer.
I once asked Alison (Christies Care’s Training Team leader) at what age I should stop caring. She gave me a little smile and said “You will know. As long as you are healthy and fit its up to you.”
I would like to thank all the hardworking people that are behind the scenes at Christies for giving us carers the support they do. For keeping in touch when we let them know we are facing a crisis in our lives. It is so special to hear a cheerful voice on the other end of the phone letting you know you are not alone.
Being a carer isn’t just a job, it’s all about care. Care for the client and care for the carer!