Diary of a home care worker: Part 1

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Each day this week, as part of the Commission on the Future of the Home Care Workforce, we’re sharing the week in a life of a home care worker. This first hand account from a care worker in the North East of England highlights the issues of care quality and fair pay and conditions that the Commission is addressing.

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Monday

Well it was a struggle to get out of bed today, day 15 without a break. I have to work extra to be able to afford essential repairs to my car, without the car I am limited to the amount of work I can do and areas would need to be restricted meaning less money to live on. Yet there is no petrol allowance or consideration to the increase in my insurance.

My first call today is to assist a lady out of bed; it’s a two person call as she is very disabled. When I arrived there was an awful smell, I then noticed that her commode had not been emptied the night before and had been placed right next to her bed, how she managed to sleep is a wonder! We have 1 hour to assist but once she is safely seated I left the other carer to assist with her breakfast and tidying up as my next call often takes much more time than is allocated.

Mrs A is fast asleep when I arrive, she likes a lie in but they regularly give her a 9am call so that we are able to fit more people in. I offer her a drink to entice her to get up this alone can take 20 mins today I’m lucky, 10 minutes and she is ready to go into bathroom. Mrs A has difficulty with her bowels so I leave her alone to use the toilet. 15 minutes later she is ready to get washed. As this is a half hour call I am left with 5 minutes to get her washed, dressed, meds prompted and make her breakfast. I have reported my concerns but social services say this is an adequate time scale – I disagree! I would never leave a client because their time has elapsed so I carry out all tasks as required – if a little rushed and leave 20 minutes late.

Luckily my next client lives with a family member but as it is several miles away I arrive almost half an hour late. Today is her trip to the daycentre so her family have given her breakfast and started to get her dressed. As most of the work was carried out before I arrived I have condensed a 45 minute call into 20 minutes giving me time to get to my next call a simple medication prompt.

Mrs B has dementia and often requires more assistance that is currently in place. I offer her breakfast and a cup of tea and check the house is safe. She has no family nearby and suffers from agoraphobia so the three calls a day she receives are her only social contact. I make an effort to sit and chat while she has her breakfast and reading through her file I notice that yesterday evening the carer was here for only 10 minutes.

As we are very short staffed in a different area I have been given some new calls to cover 15 miles away this trip alone takes 25 minutes. So far today I have spent one hour travelling and its only lunch time, that’s one hour of my day at work that I don’t get paid for! I am running behind so after preparing a microwave meal and a cup of tea for the service user I run out without having time to have a conversation, it makes me feel so guilty but there is always someone else waiting.

By the time I arrive at my next call it is 1:45 and the lady is very unhappy at my time keeping, I apologise and explain how far I have come but she very angry with me. I can feel my head pounding knowing that I am going to be late for a sit I have to do next. I sit with the lady while her daughter goes shopping but as I am half an hour late she will come back half an hour later which means I have childcare issues! Again! I phone around and get my 76 year old neighbour to agree to sit with my children so that my husband can go to work. It’s nice to get home and see the kids they were in bed when I left, but I haven’t seen my husband at all.

  • Miles travelled: 42
  • Unpaid travel time: 1 hour 45 minutes.

Read entries from  Tuesday,  Wednesday,   Thursday and Friday

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Find out more about the Commission on the Future of the Home Care Workforce , make your own submission or contact Ingrid Koehler, Senior Policy Researcher at LGiU at ingrid.koehler@lgiu.org.uk

Photo Credit: incurable_hippie via Compfight cc

    1. You know – this is what I hear from my carers every day for the past five years.
      What surprises me is that all these things are widely known about and yet the Government chose to spend less on social care as is required. Why the constant tread mill of acceptance and denial ans sheer ineptitude of successive Governments to get care to to people who need it. I feel guilty every day I see my carers as I know how appallingly treated they are. Yet desperate local authorities have to continue seeking to commission contracts to the most desperate of agencies, willing to take the shilling that doesn’t cover the service users needs never mind the responsibilities of the agency as an employer.

      Never the less life goes on and we must continue to be vigilant and not let the assessed needs of individuals go unmet. But we should not do that by forcing the hand of really lovely carers desperately trying to provide a service they know their clients deserve. There are some fantastic carers out there and they need looking after. There are also great home care agencies too.

      Maybe, however, the time has come to just close down the agencies that cannot organise carers’ rotas or ensure that clients can get out of their bed on time to get to work or to get their medication or attend a hospital appointment. Just close them down an move carers onto agencies who can look after them and their clients.

      Some kind of funding mechanism is required to support care agencies meet the needs of service users and the carers workforce.

      Care Opinion is an independent web site where anyone involved in health and adult social care can share their stories. The site covers all adult social services, giving service users, their families and carers the opportunity to publish their personal experiences, both good and bad, of the care system.

      Care Opinion is a place where you can share your stories about the care services you have used and see what others are saying about the services too. Importantly Care Opinion lets you see how services respond and whether they make improvements or not.

      Please have a look at the stories we have collected via https://www.careopinion.org.uk/opinions?tag=co-great

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