Social care has never been in more demand. Between 2005 and 2014 the population aged 85 and over – the group most likely to require care – increased by 30%. As people continue to live longer, demand for care is only going to increase. This comes at a time when government cuts in social care spending and strains on the NHS are restricting the provision of care, and making recruitment into the sector a huge challenge.
As demand increases, so must recruitment. Yet many people are unaware of the varied and rewarding role care work can provide. Have you ever wondered what being a carer is really like? Read our first-hand experience from Sarah, a care worker in Worthing as she talks us through a day in the life of a carer.
Waking at 06:00 on Monday morning, Sarah feeds the dog and eats a quick breakfast before leaving for her first call. Having collected her rota the previous Friday, she is well aware of what her week has in store, and heads straight to her first client.
The first call is an elderly gentleman who she helps to get up, washed and dressed. Having worked with the gentleman for almost a year, this is fairly routine by now, and having built up a good relationship they chat while she dresses him. After making his breakfast and tidying up, Sarah leaves for her next call.
When talking about working with the same client for a number of weeks, Sarah comments that it “really helps to build a rapport.” She explains that “allowing a stranger into your house for the first time,” is of course initially a source of apprehension for the service user, so having the same care worker makes all the difference. As time goes on “you really get to know them, what they like and don’t like.” Sarah explains that it is the little things that matter, such as “knowing whether somebody likes their arms or head put into a jumper first”, and it all helps to ensure someone’s comfort. Although they sound “silly”, details such as these are that intricacies that Sarah explains are integral to being a carer. A relationship with service is what makes caring such “a satisfying experience . . . getting to know them not only as care users but as real people with real quirks and personalities.”
Arriving at her second call at 11:00, Sarah will spend the rest of the day here, helping a disabled woman with her daily tasks. This involves cleaning, cooking, and taking the woman to complete her weekly shop. As she is disabled, this is the only time in the week that the service user leaves the house – highlighting the difference care work can make.
We ask Sarah how important it is to take disabled care users out, even if it is only to the shops or to the park. She replies that “allowing someone to live in the community as part of the community makes an enormous difference to their wellbeing”. This is especially important when you consider the health issues associated with loneliness, boredom, and exclusion. Responsibilities like these really are “one of the best parts of the job, and is no different to going to town or to the shops with friends.”
After making dinner for her final client of the day at 5:30, Sarah heads home to prepare for tomorrow and catch up with her family. Asking her about this day’s work, Sarah is quick to reply that “no two days are ever the same”, adding that “on some days I might see one person, but on others I might have eight or nine different calls.” She also adds that the range of people she sees is huge; all ages and backgrounds.
Before leaving Sarah, after a long day of work, we ask her one final question: what is it that she likes best about being a carer? She replies that “I really do love my job. Helping those less fortunate really is one of the most satisfying things I could imagine myself doing, and has given me a huge sense of appreciation for the little things, such as walking the dog, or having drinks with friends on a Friday.”