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Sheila Warris was inspired to work in home care after caring for her own husband, mother and daughter during their illnesses and before they died.
“So I know first-hand the importance of helping people feel as comfortable as possible in an environment that means something to them,” she says.
From singing with her clients to making the perfect cup of tea, Sheila, who works for Bluebird Care York - gives an insight into the life of a home care worker.
“At 6.45am, I will arrive at my first appointment of the day. Eighty-eight-year-old Florence lives on her own and needs help starting her day.
Although I don’t actually start my shift until 7am, I always like to get there slightly early as I know Florence will always be looking out the window, awaiting my arrival.
“For many of my clients, I am the only person they will see in a day so it’s important to make sure they know they are the focus of my attention during a visit.
“I will help Florence get washed and dressed and make her some breakfast. I tidy her surroundings and ensure she is settled, safe and secure. But, most importantly, I talk to her and listen to how she is feeling.
“We see many reports in the media about ‘clock-watch care’, where visits are restricted to 15 minutes or less, with one recent story even claiming that half a million home care visits last less than five minutes. It would be impossible for me to get anything done that is of value to people in this short time.”
The minimum amount of time, Sheila will spend with a person receiving home care is 30 minutes, which means she can get to know their unique qualities rather than just see them as a checklist of care needs.
“Florence is certainly worth more than just a tick on my rota; she is a fascinating lady who deserves my complete focus during my time with her. I’ve got to know her little ways, such as making that cup of tea just how she likes it - with a squeeze of lemon and a drop of honey.
“Paying attention to the finer details and adapting to each call is an essential part of my role. As well as Florence, I can see another four to five people throughout the day - some days I will see up to 12 clients, it will depend on their needs.
“Later, when I am with another customer, John, I will need to turn my hand to making a bacon sandwich with the bread slightly toasted and with a slight smear of mustard – his particular favourite.
“I can’t sing for toffee, but one of my clients is a nervous, self-conscious lady and I discovered one day that she relaxes more if I sing to her while getting her washed and dressed.
“My mischievous sense of fun appears to be an effective way of connecting with many of my clients, who are themselves such characters with wonderful stories to tell.”
Sheila helps them in a variety of ways; from essential tasks, such as ensuring they take their medication, to more social activities, such as going to the shops or for a little walk outside.
She finds caring for people to be “an awesome responsibility and I feel enormous privilege to be given that trust. I know that it is a daunting and scary experience to accept someone other than family into your home and life.
“I joined Bluebird Care-York because of its reputation as a care provider that puts customers first and for delivering the level of care that you would expect for your own friends and relatives.
“There are huge positives to working in care – it’s a career where you can get an enormous sense of personal achievement from knowing you are helping other people. The opportunity to make a real difference to someone’s life is a wonderful and rewarding experience,” she says.