Caroline had wanted to become a carer from a young age. After caring for her mother-in-law for ten years, she joined Elder in 2017, fulfilling a professional ambition to help and support people in later life.
We talked to her about the importance of laughter, and how she enjoys being an ‘extra hand’, helping to keep older people ‘feeling like themselves’ and living as independently as possible in the comfort of their own homes.
Caring is something I have wanted to do since I can remember, and I have always liked looking after elderly people, even from a young age. When I was 13 I used to help an old gentleman, who was a friend of my Nana and Grandad, with his weekly shopping. I know that one day we’re all going to be old - if we’re lucky! – and it makes me feel good to feel I have helped someone who needs it.
I looked after my mother-in-law who had dementia for about ten years and joined Elder as a professional carer a year ago.
Flexibility is important to me and with live-in care I have the choice as to when I work. I have had long-term placements, but now I chose to do shorter placements. I like the fact that if I’m tired after two weeks, I can have a week off, and if I’m looking after someone and it’s too challenging I can ring up Elder and arrange to have a break.
When I arrive at a placement I introduce myself and talk to them about how I enjoy looking after people to put them at ease. Importantly, I also ask the person I am caring for about themselves - my clients have lived long and interesting lives and I love hearing about them.
I didn’t go to college so I’ve learned much of my caring from my experience of looking after my mother-in-law and through different placements. Caring is a demanding job, and it can take a lot out of you. But if you work with a person and develop a bond, then you can have a great time with them and live-in care is a lovely environment to work in.
To be a good carer you’ve got to get on with the person and know what they like and don’t like. For example, Mary*, the lady I am looking after at the moment, has no interest in games or colouring or even the TV. I asked her what she liked and she told me she was keen on Carry On films, so I bought some DVDs and watch them together. We also keep active by going for a walk three times a day - and sing songs and nursery rhymes together, which make us laugh - which is important.
But you’ve got to explain to the care recipient clearly from the start that you are there to look after them and to keep them safe. I always say, “I am not here to boss you about or tell you what to do, I am just helping you”.
Mary is 88 years old and she doesn’t look it at all. She looks about 60! She has pretty severe dementia and it’s taken me six months to get her into a routine.
I try to encourage her to do what she can. I will give her a shower in the morning and then we’ll go into the bedroom where I’ve laid out all her clothes on the bed so she knows what styles and colours are there. I ask her what she would like to wear and she’ll choose.
I can honestly say caring is the job that I’ve always wanted to do. Elderly people are amazing. They were all young once and have had a life - and it’s nice to be able to keep that person dignified and their memories going.
Why they care...
Some of the carers working with Elder talk through why they got into the profession, and why it works for them. For many, becoming a care professional starts with a personal experience of supporting someone they love.
Recently, Mary kept looking at a picture on the wall and saying, ‘I wish I was Mary up there’. I couldn’t work out what she meant at first, but when I did it brought a tear to my eye. The picture was of her when she was younger and she was saying that she wished she was ‘Mary’ – because back then she could dress and look after herself.
I said to her, ‘You’re still Mary, I am not taking you away. You’re still here. I am just helping you’.