Giving back.

Home-care assistant Samantha Ledger, 27, on the self sacrifice of British carers

My alarm sounds at 7, but I’m usually awake before it goes off. I find I quickly fall into a routine when doing home-care, as I stay with my client in her home. I get washed, dressed, have a cup of tea and a cigarette before I wake my client at around quarter to 8. Once she’s awake, I sit her on the edge of the bed for a few minutes – this prevents her from getting up too fast and possibly falling. I’ll then help her to put on her slippers and lead her through to the bathroom so she can use the toilet. My client is an 87 year old dementia sufferer, which means she’s quite able-bodied, but still needs daily care.

While she’s using the toilet, I’ll make her tea and get her medication and water ready. She brings herself through to the lounge when she’s ready – she lives in a bungalow, so it’s quite easy for her to navigate through and maintain her independence. I bring her medication and tea through to the lounge, as she enjoys watching the television – her favourite channel is ITV4. Although she can’t follow many of the story lines due to her dementia, she still enjoys the older programmes like Murder She Wrote.

I prepare our breakfast while she drinks her tea. My client has Cornflakes, a banana and a yoghurt. I’ll have a couple of slices of toast, along with another mug of tea. I enjoy eating and chatting with her, although some of our conversations can be quite repetitive. I think it’s very important to get to know your client – their likes and dislikes. This is particularly helpful if they suffer with dementia. She sometimes forgets what her favourite foods are, so meal times can be very trial and error.

At around 10:30, once she’s rested her breakfast, I take her back through to the bathroom to assist her in getting washed and dressed. She sits on a bath stool in the shower and I help her to clean the areas that she finds difficult to reach. When I first became a carer, I found the whole experience quite uncomfortable, but after a while it just comes naturally. However, even now I still find washing men quite uncomfortable, you have to be extra careful – it can be quite embarrassing if they become aroused.

When she’s finished in the shower, I’ll dry her off and apply medicinal moisturising cream to her legs, which is to prevent ulcers. She is able to put her own top on and I’ll put her trousers on. This process can take up to half an hour, but one she’s dressed she goes back into the lounge. I then make her another mug of tea and leave her watching T.V. while I wash up the breakfast things, make her bed and clean the bathroom – I always ensure that there are no wet patches on the bathroom floor that she could slip on.

I make lunch at around half 12. Today I gave her two sausage rolls, cherry tomatoes, a handful of Pringles, a bar of chocolate and a peach – I ate the same, as I often do. We turn off the T.V. when we have lunch and discuss what she would like to do today. She suggests going for a drive – my client really enjoys driving along country roads and looking across the fields. Before our drive, I’ll prompt her to use the toilet whilst I wash up our lunch things. We set off at 14:30 and spend around an hour driving.

My client’s daughter visits every day at around 17:30, so I make sure we are always home in time to see her. She stays for at least half an hour. I look forward to her visits – we get on well and often all sit together and discuss how the day went. As my client lives in a village, around 10 miles away from my home, it can get quite lonely. Her illness makes her childlike at times, and it’s nice to have a proper conversation. When people hear ‘carer’, they often picture care homes with many residents and carers, but home-care is quite different. A trip to the supermarket is sometimes the highlight of my day – it’s a nice change of scenery and I also might chat with the staff.

At around 18:00, once my client’s daughter has left, I’ll start preparing supper. Today we had fish, chips and peas. We eat together and watch T.V. She usually starts to feel tired after supper, so I leave her to relax with her glass of red wine while I clear up and do some clothes washing.

At 21:00 I give my client her final dose of medication and a glass of water. I’ll then help her to get washed and into her pyjamas. She’ll usually go back into the lounge and watch T.V. for about an hour before she goes to bed. When she’s ready, I take her through to the bathroom to use the toilet, and help her get into bed – she enjoys falling asleep to music, so I put the radio on after saying goodnight. Once she’s in bed I lock the doors and finish cleaning. It’s usually around 23:00 before I get time to myself.

I’ll usually just get in my pyjamas and relax by reading a book, often too tired to do much else. I work Monday through to Saturday, and have every-other weekend off. I look forward to spending this time catching up with friends and family. Sometimes I’ll go to music concerts or to the pub, but it’s also nice just relaxing at home. Although home-care can be very time consuming, I really enjoy my job. I’ve always had respect for carers since I was a child, watching my grandmother take care of my uncle, who suffered with brain tumours. People, like my uncle, who can no longer take care of themselves are so grateful for your help, and I feel incredibly fortunate to have such a rewarding career.


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