A day in the life of a Care Professional: Mary

Join us as we invite you to step into the world of a Care Professional at Home Instead East Herts. Today, we are delighted to share with you the extraordinary day of Mary, allowing you to witness firsthand the invaluable role she plays in the lives of those she cares for.

“I’ll write about today! Warts and all!

Today my calls are mostly in one of the villages. It’s a lovely drive out there, but the roads are very bendy and you drive through tunnels of trees so it can seem dark. I have my headlights on even though it’s bright daylight, even at this early time in the morning. Often at the weekends there are groups of cyclists on the roads, so I leave lots of time for the journey. On the bendy roads, opportunities to overtake are limited!

My first lady is just a few years short of a hundred. You wouldn’t think it! She just needs a bit of help. Such as washing those hard-to reach areas, putting on her stockings, and making a nice cup of tea and breakfast. Above all, she needs company and a friendly visitor. 

In the two weeks since I saw her last, she has gotten an elderly rescue cat for company. As I am introduced to the cat I get told about it’s needs. The cat has already been added to the task list by the office! (We need to make sure it doesn’t get out into the garden). I’m shown where its food and litter tray are, and I’m happy I know what to do! I’ve had cats myself and like them very much! The cat has a scratch behind the ears, and is very nimble for a seventeen-year-old; runs upstairs!

The next lady is also fast approaching a hundred. Again, you wouldn’t know it! Our visits are always stimulating as she recalls poems and recites them to me. I join in, then recite a poem of my own and ask if she knows it! Sometimes it’s books, current affairs, or history. Today she is a bit sleepy, so there is less chat than we sometimes have. This lady lives in bed. Once she is washed, made comfortable, and repositioned, I open the curtains so she can see the world outside. I sort out her breakfast and we chat as she eats. She is looking forward to her daughter coming later after a week’s holiday. Breakfast finished, I do the washing up, and make sure she is comfortable, and double check there is nothing else she needs before I take my leave.

The next call is to a man. When I first started visiting him, he said no to everything. No to personal care, to drink, to food, to medication. I always let on call know that he had refused care, but I didn’t worry too much about it. I knew that his more regular carers would be there for the next visit in a few hours’ time, and he would say yes to them!  

After a while I worked out a way of being with him that worked. As a former military man, he responds quite well to a firmer approach. Somebody who is efficient and confident in what they are doing. Today, however, he was fast asleep and didn’t respond to my greeting. I busied myself around his home with various tasks, then returned to him ten minutes later. He was still asleep. He stirred briefly to say no. Realising that I wouldn’t have any success with getting him to eat, drink, have medication or a pad change, I left a fresh drink and something to eat beside him. And let on call know that I had been unsuccessful with care at this visit. I felt confident that at my next visit to him at lunchtime it would be different!

The next call is the most challenging I have. Still in the same village it’s to a lady living with dementia. She is living alone but is increasingly struggling. Her family live overseas, but one son and his family have been over for the past few days. Reading the notes from other care pros, this has been a much happier time for her. She has been able to play with her grandchildren and there has been laughter. It was lovely to read those notes! 

The first time I visited this lady we had a lovely walk in the village and across the fields. However, since then our visits have been very difficult. She has tolerated my presence rather than enjoyed my company. Every attempt to engage with her has been shut down with terse one-word replies. I’ve suggested walks, tried looking at photo albums, brought along various games, tried all sorts of conversational openings, but no, nothing works. She does accept her medication today as she does each time. She hasn’t eaten and says she doesn’t want anything. After a while I start to make her a sandwich anyway. She comes to the kitchen, says tersely that she can do it herself, finishes making the sandwich, and eats it in my presence. So that is a success of sorts! There have been concerns that she is not eating properly and lots of meals have been found in the bin. I have taken a meal out of the freezer for later. I don’t know if she will eat it or not, but she has an evening visit from another care pro who will find out if she has eaten and ensure she does have something.

Now, back to one of the earlier ladies for a lunch visit. Her daughter is there, back from her holiday! Unfortunately, a drink has been spilled over all the bedding so immediately the daughter and I work together to make the lady comfortable. A wash, pad change, complete change of bedding, and repositioning up the bed. Feeling much more comfortable now, the lady can enjoy her lunch. Now we are relaxing. I produce my challenge for the week! For the past couple of visits I have given them an activity pack to do together – several sheets of quizzes, word games and, poetry. This time the challenge is to paint a portrait of one another dressed in an outlandish French costume of beret, moustache, a garland of onions, and a stick on moustache! I leave all the art and dressing up gear with them, confident that they will give it a go. If anybody will give things a go, its this lady and her daughter!

Back to the first lady for her lunch. Her more regular care pro batch cooks meals for her, so I heat up one of the portioned meals in the microwave and we sit and chat as she eats. She shows me the local parish magazine, knowing I will be interested in one of the articles. I’m interested in all of it! It turns out there is a great deal going on in the village!

On to the chap again, who was sleeping earlier. He is still asleep and hasn’t touched his drink or the food I left beside his bed. I speak to him firmly and say he must sit up and drink, as he hasn’t had anything all day. I help his legs around off the bed and help him sit up. After a good drink we walk to the bathroom so he can use the toilet and we do his wash and get dressed in clean clothes. 

Once at the dining table he has his tablets and I heat up his lunch. I tidy up, put a wash on, and leave a note for his regular care pro who will be there for the next visit. This is only scheduled to be a thirty minute visit, but as I have helped him wash and get changed as well as heated his lunch, we have overrun by quite some time. I would normally make sure he had eaten and then help him back to his armchair. But as I am overrunning I have to leave him with his meal at the table. He is eating by himself and I have put a DVD on for him to watch. I tell him his regular care pro will be along later in the afternoon to see him and he is pleased about that.

I now get a break in which to have a drink and some lunch, but a note from yesterday’s care pro lets me know that the next person I am going to see would like to do some painting. Although I have some art material with me, along with various other activity stuff, I don’t have paints. I go to Hobbycraft and buy some paints and brushes. Then a quick half hour at home to have a coffee and I set off back to work for my last visit.

I see this person every week and we get on well. “What are we going to do?” he asks after having very politely enquired after my sister. We get the paints out and he paints a picture for his regular care pro. I paint a picture, too, and we compare our different styles, admiring one another’s work. We leave the paintings to dry, and I suggest a game of carpet bowls, which we played last week. Last time he beat me 9-1! This time I managed two points! While he has his bath, I heat up the evening meal. As he’s eating tea, he makes observations that “It’s quarter to five! I’m going to have a nice peaceful evening!” When such observations have been repeated I take this as my cue to leave, even though our time isn’t yet up. I can take a hint! He really is very polite, but he wants me to go now! We say goodbye, he heads off upstairs to his bedroom, and I head home and sit in my garden for a coffee, reflecting on a very varied day, as each work day is.

Working in care is hugely intense. You are one hundred percent with the person in front of you. You give them everything you’ve got. Sometimes it works fabulously. Sometimes its a real struggle for both you and the person you are with. 

It gives huge meaning to your life. 

Often you know you are making a very real difference to the lives of others. 95% of the time you go home knowing that you’ve done your best. Sometimes things play on your mind. Things you should have done, things you shouldn’t have done. Always with Home Instead, I know that I have one hundred percent support from the team in the office. From the senior carers on-call who are fabulous, and from my fellow care-pros. I’ve never known such great people to work with. And that makes everything possible.

Mary x”