Sunday 27 November 2011

My Pet Peeve - Oh I Couldn't Do That

My entry into care work was at 15 years of age. A friend was intending to go into nursing and wanted to do some volunteer work at a nursing home. It was summer holidays, so I thought "why not?" And I went with her. At first our main roles were to run bingo, help with craft and gardening activities and reading. However this was in the days before CRB checks and risk assessments and broadscale suing of care providers, and we did some personal care as well, such as assisted mealtimes (back in those days it was called "feeding").

One day I was reading to one of my old ladies. She was embarrassed, she'd soiled her pad and wanted changing. I knew that this was beyond our remit and went to fetch a staff member. This nurse looked down on me like I was piece of dog poo on the floor and said "What? You wipe your own arse don't you? Go and do it". So I did. I got her all sorted out nicely, put clean knickers on her, washed my hands then did her hair and we went out for a walk. I honestly thought nothing of it.

I rather inadvisedly did a Bachelor of Business at University (I have one subject left that I failed over and over again, Business flipping Statistics, my achilles heel), but always was jealous of my friends doing nursing (except when they were doing cadaver work, I like my bodies talking  back thanks). All through university and my one year period of unemployment, I kept my hand in. Not always physical caring but I did advocacy work, occupational therapy with people with head injuries, work with young people. I loved it.

Eventually I got a job working in a "group home" with people with disabilities. I have had other jobs, working in a bank, and working for a health insurance company, and I do like that sort of work too. But my heart is in care work.

But I hate the patronising attitudes I get. And I feel lucky. I get paid for this. There are millions of unpaid carers, doing this for love, looking after parents, relatives, children, little help and no recognition. My heart goes out to kids that don't have a childhood due to the care responsibilities, to grown up kids who give up their homes and their jobs to take care of elderly parents.

I feel priveleged. I do really, it's not just lip service. I get involved in people's lives, I get far more reward than just pay. I said goodbye to a client yesterday, and I do need to be careful here about confidentiality but I want to share this. He's 25. He has Batten's disease.  It's been a delight to transition this young man from hospital into a lovely place where he will be now. He used to say "I can't see the sky", he didn't mean physically as he hasn't been able to see for a long time, but he meant figuratively. His room has massive windows overlooking a beautiful garden. He has the sky back . He put his head into my hand and stroked my other one, whilst I said goodbye and wished him the best. I had a little tear.

He gave me far more than I gave him.. And those of you scared of a little poo, a little wee, and a bit of hard yakka are missing out.

And you know that nurse, fed up, with no time for a spotty faced school girl had a point. You wipe your own arse. Another person's poo is very much like your own. We all have responsibility to care and look after one another. And some of us wear a uniform and get paid for it.

1 comment:

  1. Kylie, I think the people that you care for are very lucky indeed because you do exactly that....CARE! My MIL worked as a "carer" (for the elderly in their own homes) and although she enjoyed the work she always felt she never had enough time with each client. She also told me stories that I found hard to hear. Not of abuse or neglect but of lack of care. There are a great amount of people who are carers because they need a job and that is all it is to them. Turn up, do the minimum necessary and go home. No care or compassion for the feelings of the people they were there to help and no regard for the massive step it is for someone to admit they need the help in the first place! Very sad :0(