Thursday 27 October 2011

How to Be A Carer

Secretly, growing up I wanted to be a social worker or a nurse. This appalled my mother, who wanted me to be a scientist, or a lawyer. I've always loved people, and taking care of them. As I have grown as a carer, I've loved empowering people, helping them gain independence, and fulfil their potential. A good carer can really make a difference in a person's life.

I dip in and out of caring. My first official care job was at the age of 15. A friend and I used to volunteer at a nursing home during our holidays. I learnt a lot. I learnt about empathy. I learnt about ageing and dementia. I learnt about memory and brain function. I learnt about funding, about inequality, about young people with nowhere else to go.

I was struggling at university, doing a Bachelor of Business, that just was not me. I kept myself sane by doing voluntary work, my favourite being Citizen Advocacy. I learnt the principles of Social Role Valorisation, and I was passionate to get out there, and help people to gain independence, and self worth. I found what I really wanted to do.

When I left university I tried to get a job fitting of my course, in business, but failed at every turn. I ended up working in a group home for people with complex disabilities. I discovered my niche, my calling. It was a challenging job, with amazing colleagues, and inspiring "clients" as they were called then.

Caring uses so many skills, which is what I love about it, there's variety, and you can get as involved as you want. I love to do activities, to go on outings, to get my service users to try new things, even if its just a food they've never tried.

I've worked at every end of the spectrum, children, the elderly, terminal illnesses, old age, disability, people with mental health disorders, I've had a huge variety.

I do intersperse caring with other work, as it's tough. Physically it can be hard, nowadays there is no lifting as such, but pulling hoists, pushing wheelchairs etc is not easy. Emotionally it can be draining, and you have to learn to switch off, which is hard for me, as I can be too empathetic at times, particularly early on in my career, I am getting better at that!

And the pay. Caring attracts a poor salary. Which is such a shame, because so often I've met people who have got a caring job because they can, not because they want to be there. That old chestnut "you pay peanuts you get monkeys" is sadly at times, true of caring.

I'm really pleased to be back caring again, and I am enjoying it greatly, it's a fab job to have.

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