A day in the life of a CAREGiver

Wendy’s story:

I have been working as a CAREGiver with Home Instead Senior Care for just over two months.  I haven't worked in this profession before, and was previously employed in education in a primary school setting for 11 years.  My aim in my new career is to provide companionship, support, comfort, and positive opportunities for my clients, and to make a difference to their lives and enable them to live independently with confidence.  After receiving  in depth induction training and further City & Guilds accredited training in dementia care, I was so happy to be been assigned 3 clients, and to start my journey as a CAREGiver. 

One of my clients is a gentleman (and that he definitely is) of 87 years young.  He is a very proud man and has a great sense of humour.  David lives on his own after losing his beloved wife, Pam, in 1991.  He has vascular dementia so his short-term memory is rather poor but his long-term memory and recollection of the past can be amazing.  I love listening to David's stories:  the 2 years he spent in National Service in the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm when he was 18 years old, and learnt engineering skills working on the aeroplane engines; his courtship with his wife, Pam, who was "a very good wife" (but not quite as good a cook as his Mother who baked amazing cakes!), and the good times he and Pam had dancing at the ballroom in Wallington; the holidays he shared with his wife and children, and the love he has for his son and his daughter with her beautiful auburn hair which he often points out when we look through the family photo albums together; 'Pepper' their family pet who was "a wonderful dog"; the pride he had in his jobs and the fact that he was never out of work and was always able to provide for his family, although David had to be flexible as to where he worked and was often on the lookout for new opportunities if contracts were coming to an end; his love of clothes, shoes, cars and motorbikes, especially his Triumph Thunderbird 650 "which did a ton, you know. I bet I could have got 120 out of her if I had pushed it!", and so many more memories. 

A topic David often mentions is life with his mother and father in Wallington, the fact that his father worked in the Mitcham Works (Mullards/Phillips) and was able to walk to work and come home for lunch, and his home in Demesne Road in Wallington with his wife, Pam.  I am one of David's regular CAREGivers at the weekend.  He was talking about his family homes one Saturday lunchtime so I asked if he would like to take a trip up memory lane the next day, and he said he would love to although he was a little concerned that he might not remember where the houses were.  I reassured him that armed with a map and bit of modern technology, we would find them.  I visited David again on Saturday evening to help him prepare his supper and for a mean game of dominoes (he never lets me win!).  I reminded him of our plans for Sunday lunchtime, which he had forgotten but was very happy to go ahead with, and I said I would ring him on Sunday morning before I left home to give him time to get ready for our journey of rediscovery, which I did.  David was dressed and ready when I arrived.  We just needed to find his glasses, keys, wallet and watch, take his medication and have a large cup of warm milk with three sugars before we set off.  David looked very smart, as he always does, with a shirt, tie, knitted waistcoat and jacket.  He takes great pride in his appearance.  As we drove to Wallington, we listened to David's favourite Frank Sinatra CD, and he sung along and kicked his legs to 'New York, New York'.  We both laughed and enjoyed our journey singing along to all the old tracks. David said, "This is superb!" which made me feel very happy and fulfilled.

Now, I had a pretty good idea where I was going because my husband kindly googled Demesne Road on Google Maps the night before but I was relying greatly on David getting us to the actual spot.  I didn't have to worry though because it all came flooding back to him, and David safely delivered us to No. 137 Demesne Road without a backward glance.  He was so thrilled to see his house standing there (and a lovely house it is too), and took immense pride in the fact that the front wall he built was still there, as were the garden gates that he hung, although the wall had been altered a bit to allow a car to park on the driveway.  He guessed that he must have built that wall in the late 1950's as he remembered that he moved to his current house on his birthday in 1964.  David described the inside of the house in detail, and then he asked me to drive around to the side of the house which backed onto a small cul-de-sac.  Again, David was thrilled to see that the shed he built in the back garden was still standing.  He had built it from the wooden crates that packaged the large machines in the factory where his father worked.  Also, the garage he built from a concrete kit was still standing in all its glory.  It was lovely to see David so proud.  I thought David was going to ask if we should knock on the door and say hello but it didn't look like anyone was home and he didn’t. 

David then said he would like to try and find his parent's house.  Onwards and upwards, I thought, so off we went.  David was on a roll at this stage, and we were pleased to soon find his parent's home in Longfield Avenue, Wallington.  David was on a mission now to find the factory where his father worked.  We knew it couldn't be far away because David's father walked to work.  After driving around for a little while and not a factory chimney in sight, we stopped to ask a man who was working on his fence in Longfield Avenue if he knew of the Mitcham Works.  He kindly went to get his wife from inside their house who had lived in the road for over 30 years.  The lady was so lovely and spent a lot of time chatting to David about the area.  He was a little reticent to ask questions at first but she was so animated that David felt comfortable to ask what he wanted to know.  Sadly, the outcome was that the factory was knocked down in 1996 and a new housing estate was built.  It was satisfying to put the jigsaw together though. 

David fancied a spot of lunch which we enjoyed together over a nice chat in The Grange in Wallington. As we drove away from The Grange, David said "You know, I recognise this area.  I used to live around here".  "Really?", I said, "Would you like to try and find your old house?"  "Oh, yes", he said, "Demesne Road, I think it was called.  Can't remember the number though".  So off we went on a 'new' journey of discovery for David.  He managed to find the road again for me, and remembered the house and the number.  He hadn't remembered that we had visited it only an hour or so earlier but the lovely thing was that he was able to re-live those wonderful feelings and elated emotions he had only just recently felt, and he was so thrilled to see his wall, gate, shed and garage still standing and intact.  He emanated pride over what he had achieved all those years ago.  "It was a lovely house, you know.  Four bedrooms".   We then contentedly headed home for a large cup of warm milk with three sugars whilst singing to Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York", on our return journey.  David was happy and so was I!  He thanked me for taking him out and said he had really enjoyed my company.  We had a very satisfying time together accomplishing our mission, and it was a real privilege to spend my Sunday afternoon with such a lovely gentleman and to share his special memories.  

A group of Home Instead CAREGivers talking
Family welcoming a Home Instead care manager into their home