Archive for January 25th, 2021

My client and I were chatting a couple of nights ago about various issues in his life, and at the end he said “I guess that as a Carer you need to wear more than one cap”.

And that got me thinking. I’ve often mused about this at various stages of my career (if you will) as a Carer, considering just how many aspects of life and experiences we’re expected to manage – with aplomb, and make it sound like we know what we’re doing.

Which most times we do, but only with experience gained over time, unless of course the Carer comes from a medical background.

After he made that comment I started thinking, and here are the hats I wear…some more often than others and some every day. I’ll start with saint’hood’ since that is the one cap we need to wear at just about every booking.

Saint’hood’: this is the most vital of all the caps carers wear. Have you ever heard the expression ‘the patience of a saint’? Well, this is one quality every carer needs in buckets full. I’ve been known to go to my room (in whichever house I’m working in) and shove my head into the pillow and scream!! Just to relieve the tension of dealing with an obstreperous and cuttingly rude client. Mostly the women, and invariably someone with mental health issues like alzheimer’s which is a bastard of a disease, and can be terribly hard to manage and cope with. Of course not everyone is affected negatively, and I’ve cared for people with alzheimer’s who are an absolute charm.

Dresser: this is something we do most days. Help to choose clothes, and sometimes accessories like a special brooch or scarf, to ensure that the client looks nice, well turned out and presentable. However, this is no easy task. Again, a client with alzheimer’s will insist that slippers and an evening dress worn with a tatty old gown and a nightie over the top is perfectly acceptable. There’s no point applying reason here, its not going to work. But it sure gets interesting. πŸ€·β€β™€οΈπŸ’ƒπŸ’ƒ

Make-up artist and hairdresser: one of my pet hates to be honest is having to wash and curl someone’s hair. Thankfully!!! I’ve not had to do it too often coz the lady clients mostly have a mobile hairdresser who visits the house. Of course during times of covid, that’s come to an end. Imagine if you will washing the hair of someone who has dandruff. I have become quite adept at finding reasons to avoid having to do that. ‘Ve haf vays and means!! ha ha ha ‘said with an evil grin’. 😁😝😝

Chiropodist and Nail Technician: seriously!! I have been asked to cut toe nails so often I’ve lost count. No! It’s not going to happen. Call the GP Surgery and request an NHS chiropodist or ask your family. The last time I was forced to cut an old person’s toe-nails was when my Mother made me cut my paternal Grandfather’s toe nails when I was a teenager. Thankfully we are not allowed to cut a client’s toe-nails for health reasons. Like an optometrist, a chiropodist is often able to detect underlying health issues by the state of the nails. Thank you Lord. I hated doing it for my grandfather and he was family. Ugh. I have however often been asked to wash, trim, and paint a lady’s nails. Not my favourite thing to do, but I try to make it a ceremony so they can enjoy it. πŸ’…πŸ’…

Launderer: the washing of clothes and subsequent ironing of said clothes. Let be me right up front about this….I LOATHE IRONING!!! LOL I buy clothes that do not need to be ironed and even if occasionally I slip up and buy something that gives directions for ironing….I ignore it, hang the garment so it dries with minimal creases and on it goes. Thankfully my walking pants and tops need no ironing and so I tend to live in them…even at work. I had one lady tell me she didn’t like my clothes. I suggested that I’d love it if she took me shopping at M&S to buy me some clothes she liked. I never heard another word about my clothes again! And I.Do.Not.Iron.Bedding. Except if I am unfortunate enough to land a booking where the lady of the house ‘insists’ the bloody sheets and duvets be ironed. Is there anything that is more a waste of time and the planet’s resources than ironing? One lady I worked for many years ago had satin sheets, and a king-sized bed!! And we HAD to iron the sheets so that there were no creases. Impossible. That’s why we have laundromats. πŸ€”πŸ€”

Seamstress: So often, I have lost count, I’ve been asked to please sew up a dress hem or sleeve, or seam on a jersey, or hole in a sock. I used to say “yes, I can do it”, but I learned real quick that if you give an inch they ask for a yard, and suddenly you’re repairing the last 10 years worth of garments. Now I prevaricate and say I can’t sew to save my life. I suspect the previous 10 Carers have done the same!! Unless I really like the client, and they are respectful of me as a person, then I’ll make a concession. Of course that doesn’t always have a happy ending and the said repair is inspected with a magnifying glass and the result is “that’s not very good you know!”. Whattt?? Fine send it to the drycleaners. Jeez. πŸ™„πŸ™„πŸ™„

Secret shopper: okay not really secret, but shopper yes. One of our duties is shopping, and this is either a pleasure or a pain depending on the financial situation of the client. If the client is well off and has money to spend and likes the finer things in life, then shopping is a pleasure. If not, then you have to turn a sows ear into a silk purse, and try to manage the household on fresh air and pennies. And still produce fine meals. The worst is that your plate gets inspected at meal times and you’re asked “isn’t that rather a lot of food on your plate?” – hmmm. No, not really, because there isn’t a lot of food to put on the plate….again, thankfully, this doesn’t happen too often, and at most positions you are able to buy the food you like. However, mention vegetarian and people spin off into a frenzy of ‘OMG’ your food is so expensive!!! Actually, vegetarian food is wayyyy cheaper than regular food. I only have to do a ‘go.compare’ once and it settles the argument.

Chef & Nutritionist: again let me be very honest here….I loathe and detest cooking hahaha. It’s a complete waste of time imho. You spend an hour putting a meal together and it takes 10 minutes to eat it and then you have to do the dishes and clean up afterwards. urgh. Give me a packet of crisps and I’m happy. 😁😁 Of course I love other people’s cooking (mostly), and I live on take-away fish and chips, or packet noodles (or hot-cross buns 🀫🀫) between bookings. But in my job as a carer I have to provide healthy, well-balanced, nicely cooked meals. That’s the theory. The reality is that most people I’ve encountered have very different ideas about what comprises a nice meal. One lady I looked after many years ago had a slice of white bread, covered with clotted cream (it had to be Rodda’s) and swirled with syrup – for supper, EVERY night! Mind you I tried it out one time, and I concurred…..it was delicious, but not to be eaten every night if you have weight issues. She didn’t. I do. And of course you will encounter clients who, no matter what you make for them, will turn their noses up, or don’t have an appetite and don’t like this or don’t like that. So either your range is very limited or you end up preparing the same thing every night, or my pet horror, it goes into the bin. But if there’s a fox to be fed, I can live with that. No waste. Very occasionally I’ve been to clients who refuse to eat anything else except microwave meals, and boy, does that make me happy!! No cooking = minimal dishes. But give me a client who enjoys their food, and I go out of my way to make it attractive and tasty πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘

Nurse: yes, unbelievably I have had to fulfil the role of nurse, district nurse to be precise. Although thankfully we are not allowed to administer injections. Think diabetes. That’s usually controlled with meds or a nurse will visit. But, anything in-between….and I’m your woman. Of course the expectation is higher than the allowance, because yes, I can fall back on the old ‘we are not allowed to do that’. But last year and previously, I’ve been called upon to wash and dress pressure sores, and ulcerated legs. During the initial covid lockdown in 2020, a client I was looking after had the DN visit every day to wash, cream and bandage her legs. But during the lockdown the nurses were so stretched that I was called upon to attend to that need for 6 weeks. It wasn’t fun, but I took great care and when the DN visited once a week they always commented on how well her legs looked. πŸ‘©β€βš•οΈπŸ‘©β€βš•οΈπŸ‘©β€βš•οΈ

Pharmacist: leading on from the above….I’ve had to offer ‘advice’ on sticking plasters, bandages, dressings and administering medications, paracetamol, laxido (the latter is usually prescribed, but oh my word…are people resistant to taking the stuff). And very often we’re expected to fill dossett boxes. Thankfully that is becoming less and less of a requirement as more pharmacies are required to now produce the dossett box fully prepared. And quite rightly too. Most of the medications we deal with are powerful drugs. One little slip of attention and you could make a bad mistake. In the past I’ve had to administer Oramorph, which is a powerful drug and pain-killer. But now the agency provides us with an indemnity and we carry insurance. Fingers crossed, so far I’ve been fine.

Cleaner: did I ever tell you how much I hate cleaning??? LOL Okay, okay, I know it has to be done. But it’s boring and tedious. I’d rather be out walking. However, it’s listed as part of the job and you have to clean the house. BUT! I don’t dust ornaments. I don’t polish furniture or silver. I don’t wash crystal. I don’t clean chandeliers. I don’t move furniture. I don’t wash carpets or curtains. And I’ve been ‘told’ to do all of those. Sorry, it’s not part of the job. The description says ‘light housework’ and I make sure it’s as ‘light’ as possible. But there’s no getting away from sweeping and mopping floors, hoovering, washing the bath, basins and toilet, making beds, doing laundry, ironing 😝😝😝cleaning kitchen counters et al. I do however LOVE it when the job description says there’s a cleaner who visits once a week. Hallelujah. And if there’s a dishwasher (of the mechanical kind) I get quite ecstatic. And I DON’T wash panties by hand because “they’re expensive”. That’s why God made washing-machines. And yes, I’ve been instructed to do just that; wash her underwear by hand. I didn’t. I used to wait till she was in bed, then toss them into the machine on ‘silk’ and voila…washed and dried by morning. Of course it absolutely killed me to waste so much water using the washing machine, but the alternative…no!!

Mechanic: I’ve been asked to fix TV’s, radios, overhead lights and lamps, heating/radiators, cars, washing machines, you name the household item and the ‘Carer’ is expected to ‘know’ how to fix it LOL And when asked to fix said item, if you say you don’t know how….”what do you mean you don’t know how? You’re a Carer, you’re supposed to know” LOL yeah, that’s me ‘jack of all trades’ and seriously, I’m a Carer not an engineer. But I can change a lightbulb or affix a plug, and clean a drain. Oh and kettles…I cannot tell you how many kettles I have descaled around Britain since I started working as a carer 18 years ago. I loathe chemicals, so good old malt vinegar does the trick (something I learned from my Mother), and it can be reused, doesn’t damage the environment and it works quickly.

Scribe: Besides the daily keeping of notes for each client (required by legislation), we are often required to write letters, or cards for birthdays or special occasions – the client will dictate because their eyesight or handwriting has deteriorated. Fortunately they have no idea how bad my handwriting is. I feel for the person on the receiving end, good luck deciphering that!!! Besides that, we have to write out cheques for the client to sign. And we have to keep a record of petty cash spending.

Accountant: which brings us to the role of accountant. Balancing the petty cash. To the penny! To go to the atm and withdraw cash. Sometimes I’ve been asked to reconcile bank statements if there is no-one else to do it. This is an area that can so easily be abused and of course it has been….by unscrupulous people. And linked to that is filing. It makes my hair stand on end sometimes when I visit a client who has no filing system and papers are piled up willy nilly anywhere there’s a surface or drawer. May the Universe be kind to the person who is left behind to sort that out!!!

Secretary: making appointments, cancelling appointments, diarising outings, medical visits, events in the clients life, noting when the bins go out, when prescriptions need to be collected, OT and physio appointments, whether inhouse or out. Finding cheque books or bank cards, locating handbags etc etc you get the picture.

Gardener: fortunately this only occurs occasionally and only requires plant watering. I refrain from agreeing to do anything else. Mind you I do enjoy ‘dead-heading’ roses LOL. If however, I arrive to find that the house is like a bloody jungle with houseplants, I want to leave by the back door. Gahhhh. I remember the days back in South Africa when I had a house full of bloody plants. What a pain in the ass. But with my job, I have a ‘get out of jail free’ card (excuse/reason) – my responsibility is ONLY to look after the interior of the house and not the exterior. Get a gardener or get over it, I say!! But, once again, every so now and then, you get a job where the description says ‘water the outdoor plants’. There is an advantage to this….although it took me a while to figure that out; it gives you time out the house and in summer a chance to get some sunshine. 🌞🌞 It took a while for the penny to drop, but now I look forward to that…and make the most of being outdoors. “Gosh those plants took an age to drink their fill!!” Meanwhile there’s a flood out the back LOL πŸ’§πŸ’§πŸ’§βš˜πŸŒ·πŸŒ»πŸŒΉ oh and removing spiders πŸ•·πŸ•ΈπŸ˜±πŸ˜±

Dog Walker: apologies to everyone who loves dogs. I hate taking the dog for a walk. Mostly because I hate having to clean up their shit. But, to be fair, the walks are usually nice, invariably in the countryside and gets me out the house. As Dr Demartini always says: it’s about balance. Dog shit vs a walk in the country. Bad and Good. LOL But please Lord do not give me a small yappy dog that pees in the house, chews everything, licks the owners legs incessantly, and barks at every bloody thing because it can’t see. It’s happened, I didn’t go back. That’s not to say I don’t like dogs per se, I love the larger breeds like alsatians, or labradors, or greyhounds…..although of course that doesn’t mean I like cleaning up after them. I usually turn down bookings with dogs. Give me a cat any day.

Driver: yup. My favourite. I love driving and enjoy it when a client has a car and we have to go out. EXCEPT!! Yes, there’s always an ‘except’ – when the client is 91, has cataracts and insists on doing the driving because they’re right precious about their car and the psychiatrist has said to ‘keep driving’. Did said professional think to ask if you have cataracts? What??? Don’t be silly!! And so it comes to pass that you have to concede defeat and pray every time you go out. Thankfully, I’ve only had this situation twice in my career. Mostly I do the driving. I like it even better when we have to use taxis to go places. πŸš–πŸš–πŸš–

Psychiatrist: yes! Talking of said individual, being a pseudo psychiatrist (as in not a genuine professional psycho πŸ˜‰ ), is a key requirement of our position of Carer for the elderly. There are so many aspects to this that I could write a few articles. But suffice to say, we are expected to be able to soothe strained nerves, encourage (whatever you can think of – like getting dressed instead of staying in pyjamas the whole day or drinking sufficient water). You have to try to understand why the person is suddenly fearful of taking their medication, or having a bath, or standing up, or putting on shoes they’ve been wearing for months, or the dark, or being left on their own, and anything else you can possibly think of. The most important key is listening and not judging. It’s about realising that their worlds have suddenly gotten a lot smaller, they no longer have control over anything much (especially if they have a pushy family or children who bully instead of cherish). I have heard stories that make my toes curl, and with dementia especially, their guards are down and they tell you stuff you really don’t want to know, and you have to find a way to distract (which isn’t difficult). Fortunately I have a very bad memory LOL 🀐🀫🀫

Repository of memory: (is there such a thing?) I know that sounds strange, but following on from memory, we as Carers are expected to remember every little conversation that transpires…in case the subject comes up again. Especially when the client has dementia…conversations or events and occasions disappear into the mist, and we need to try and remember as much as possible. Also, and especially with dementia, people live in a world of their own and they imagine things have been said or done that actually haven’t. You sometimes have to be on your toes with that because of the tall tales sometimes told…I have learned to write those episodes down while they are fresh in my memory, so that I can fall back on it when I get a concerned call from a family member.

And last, but not least…..

Priest’hood‘ : I’ve left this to last, because it really is the ‘last’ as far as our clients are concerned. They are on the last stretch. Their days are not going to last much longer. And they are fearful. I get embroiled in a whole heck of a lot of religious discussions…mostly with clients who are still cognisant and can hold a conversation. But on the whole, it’s mostly about holding the hand of a little old lady who is terrified of dying, has dementia, doesn’t understand what is happening, why no-one comes to visit (the son or daughter left 30 minutes, or even 5 minutes ago), and their worlds have shrunk to 4 walls. And everything ‘out there’ is frightening. I’m not in any way religious. I lean more towards the spiritual. So it’s not always easy to be ‘the last priest’ and I’m always grateful when there is a Priest involved. Usually Catholic, and they visit once a week for confession. But it’s the inbetweeners that are the most tricky to deal with. I have had to shut down so many conversations because of the things that get said. But so long as it doesn’t stray into ‘gossip’ or reveal family secrets, then I’m prepared to listen.

Finally, and this has only happened once in my time as a Carer, and to be honest it was a genuine privilege – to ‘lay’ a person out. I was working for a wonderful family, had only been there a week when the gentleman died in his bed; a beloved husband and father. His wife and son were at his bedside. His daughter was out getting medication that arrived too late. She was desperately sad she hadn’t been there at his passing. After discussion the family decided they wanted him to stay in the house till the next day….but they wanted him to look presentable. So his daughter and I did the ritual of ‘laying the body out’. We undressed him, washed his whole body down, dressed him in his finest pyjamas and gown and even socks….and laid him out in the bed, slightly propped up by pillows and covered him with clean sheets and cover. That I think has been one of the most profound of all the many things I’ve been asked to do. And the family were truly grateful, and able to spend just a few more hours with him and finding solace in not having him rushed off. Makes sense to me.

And there you have it. If I gave this any more thought, I’m sure I could think of a few more ‘caps’ we Carers have to wear. We really are expected to fulfil so many roles and to do them well. And yet, when it comes to taking our minimal 2 hour break in the afternoon…I’ve been asked “why do you need a break, you haven’t done much all day”. Hah!!! I’ve learned over the years to be militant about taking my breaks. It’s my time. Do not bother me. Fortunately now with my walking I have the perfect excuse to get out the house for the 2 hours. And to be fair, it’s not everyone who resents you taking time off.

So, that’s me…wearer of many caps; IT expert, clock changer, chief cook and bottle wash!! 🀣🀣🀣 I have to be honest and say that occasionally I get a booking where there’s a cook and housekeeper, and boy do I relish that. πŸ˜ƒπŸ˜ƒπŸ˜ƒ Oh and when there’s a TV in the Carer’s room…my delight knows no bounds. Otherwise we seldom get to watch anything we’d like to see. Mind you, having said that…I was introduced to Countryfile and Spring Watch in about 2008 thanks to a client, and yes….my favourite of all ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ – there are benefits πŸ™‚

However, you know that lovely sunny image that’s used on the front of brochures; you know the one…where you have a Carer kneeling next to a little old lady sitting gracefully in a chair, and they’re both smiling sweetly and drinking tea…don’t believe it. It is an illusion. The reality is way way different and whilst there are occasions where you do have a similar situation, they are fleeting and hard to come by.

In closing, I love my job. I get enormous satisfaction out of caring for people, even the difficult ones, but there are days when I question my own sanity, and I sometimes tease my clients and say ‘it’s your turn tomorrow’…

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