Live-in carer stories: Jillo Koyama

Jillo, 31, has been a professional carer for five years and was inspired to choose her career path through her personal experience of caring for her younger brother. Having seen the impact of care on his life she wanted to bring her skills and dedication to others and make a real difference to those who needed it.

We talked to Jillo about caring as a career for a younger person, the benefits and challenges - and why there is no better feeling at the end of the day than knowing you’ve contributed to the world in a positive way.

My younger brother was born prematurely and he is deaf and mute - from a young age we were close and I experienced first-hand what it was like for someone who needed care, and what a difference it made to him. It really moved me and I know the impact good care has on someone’s life, so I decided to become a professional carer.

My first job was providing domiciliary care, but that was very hectic and I never really felt I could do my job properly. The thing that appealed to me about live-in care is that you are able to look after somebody on a more personal basis and understand what they really need.

It’s not a rushed environment and so you can read through a care plan thoroughly and be more effective in your job. You have time to learn things as you go along. When I was doing domiciliary care it was impossible for me to do that.

The structure of live-in care appealed to me too. It’s flexible work, which is important, but you also get to see places you would not otherwise see. I love travelling and discovering new cities and when you work in live-in care you might get sent to a part of the UK you’ve never been before on a placement. I actually moved to Edinburgh from London permanently because of a six-week live-in position I had – so it has changed my life!

A good carer is someone who is always willing to learn and I never go into anything believing I know everything. You have to understand that every person is different – and also that you are there in their home and you’re providing a service for them - so a level of respect is important.

I’ve had a mix of positions within live-in care, from a long-term placement of just over 18 months to shorter placements of around a month, like the one I am on now. I have also worked with all sorts of clients including those with Alzheimer’s and dementia, and I am keen to work on palliative care or rapid relief care soon to improve my skills.

I am always looking for the next level, and the opportunities to grow within my role as a carer.

The most difficult part of care is dealing with people who have dementia, and I remember my very first placement was a wonderful lady who had developed dementia at quite a young age.

It was difficult for me because she would hide her handbag and forget where she had put it and think I had stolen it. As a carer you have to understand this person is not in their right frame of mind and be extremely patient – patience is a carer’s superpower!

One of my favourite things about being a carer is the communication element. I cared for a gentleman who served in the war and I learned so much from him. He enjoyed talking about his experience and I enjoyed listening.

For me, that communication is a highlight. Where else would a young African girl talk with an 82-year-old military veteran about his experience in the war? For me, it was in care.

I went into care as a career early - in my twenties - because of the experience I had with my younger brother, but if someone is considering a career in this sector at any age I would say it is definitely worth trying it out because you’ll never know what you might discover about yourself. I have found it to be the most wonderful journey so far.

Care is a very satisfying and rewarding job. You’re engaging with the world and making a real difference to someone who needs it. Going home at the end of the day or finishing a placement I feel I have made a positive difference, however small it may be.

Somebody needed my help and I have given them the best I can give them. There’s no other feeling like it in the world.

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.