Age UK estimates that there are currently 2.5 million older people in the UK who currently have nobody to turn to and almost 1.5 million older people feel more lonely at Christmas than any other time of year.
Clients receiving live-in care fortunately do not fall into that category because they have a carer who is there to both help them and to keep them company. At Christmas this is even more important because Christmas can be extremely emotive, especially if you are alone.
Every year tens of thousands of dedicated care professionals are needed to help look after vulnerable people over Christmas. Their role is crucial over the festive period, but what’s it like to work as a live-in home carer over Christmas? and Why working in the home care industry is so rewarding? In this interview, we speak to Live-in carer Ana Martin, about her experience of the job.
How long have you been a carer for?
I have been a carer for about more than 15 years, but I have been working as a live-in carer in UK since 2014 and nearly always with people living with cognitive diseases. I came to the UK during the economic crash in my country home Portugal and have not looked back since. Some of my family and friends are still in Portugal, but I have made wonderful friends here too.
What is your experience?
I have a great deal of experience and knowledge with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s Disease, other cognitive impairments and also other diseases, such cancer, heart disease, etc. I also have experience in Palliative care, End of Life and in providing support to the family members, whose loved ones are about to pass away. So, I am very well versed in caring for demanding needs and working under pressure. I have been fortunate enough to stay with most of my clients for a long time and I’m always be treated like a family member.
Who are you looking after now?
I have been with my client now for two years looking after a lovely gentleman with a brilliant mind, very educated, very kind, very generous – a genuine British Gentleman. His mobility is fragile, although he walks with the support of a four wheel Rollator, he didn’t feel safe at home not during the day, not during the night and also because he sometimes awakes during the night and he didn’t feel safe walking by himself. So even with the wheeler, he needs my support.
He feels safe, comfortable and happy, because he knows that I am there for him. I also help my client with his personal care, getting dressed and I help around the house, keeping all clean and tidy, cooking. I also check his medication, order more when necessary, contact health professionals when necessary as well, always with my client’s consent. I am his constant companion.
What you do together?
As I am an Artistic painter and a collagist, with many clients, I could use my artistic skills to deliver art therapy. My client likes to read and reads a lot of historical, biography books as well as crime fiction, the daily newspapers, magazines, and so on. Sometimes we talk about a book that he is reading at the moment, some interesting article appearing in newspapers, but together we do a lot of other things, such as, domestic tasks, especially in the kitchen, my client likes to help, we organise daily activities, daily menu, we do together the shopping list and order online. I assist my client with his iPad and computer, when he needs help. We go out for a walk twice a day and we observe the birds, especially the kites, my client loves them.
Sometimes we go further using the wheelchair, for a coffee to the Beech House, to have lunch to a restaurant, to the barber for a hair cut, to the Library for my client be able to choose which books he would like to read. When the weather permits we do gardening, and many more things, but the most important thing that we do together is laugh a lot.
How do you ensure your clients are happy?
To be a carer is not a piece of cake, it is a very hard work, because each client is unique, with his own personality, his own character, his own needs and to adapt and be able to provide a high standard of care to all this so different and unique clients is a very challenging task but at the same time very rewarding.
So, my duty as a carer is to look after the physically wellbeing and for the wellbeing of the mind too, ensuring clients feel happiness, love, safe. They need someone who they can trust, a friend, a confident, a listener, someone that respects their dignity, privacy, someone that acts always with their consent, that respects their homes, someone who pays attention to all smallest details, signs that can prevent any harm, someone that is there for them, the very simple little things and as a 24/7 live-in carer I am all that. So when I see a big smile on my clients face, I know that they are happy and this happens all the time and it is my biggest reward.
Why do you spend Christmas with your clients?
There are several reasons for me to spend Christmas with my clients. As a carer my client’s needs, wellbeing, happiness, always come first. I usually look after people with dementia and maintain a consistent routine is really important to them, also to keep them calm, without stress, happy is vital for their wellbeing.
Another reason is because some of my clients don’t have family nearby or even no family at all, so I was the family, so how could I let them with another carer that they didn’t know? How would they feel? They could feel abandoned, restless, sad, unhappy, so I was worried and after talk with my beloved husband we decided together that the best thing to do was to stay and made the most of it, have fun, organise a Christmas party for my clients feeling happier, didn’t feel alone, without family.
It can also be difficult to find carers to work over Christmas, so with my husband understanding and support, I have been spending Christmas festivities with my clients.
Ashridge Home Care is the first company that pays me extra for working Christmas. They really reward our dedication, also my client’s family rewards me with his friendship and love, they both are my second family and both were a tremendous support when my husband passed away and I am very grateful and l will never forget, they all will be in my heart for ever. These are another reason why I work the important festive holidays as I am well looked after – by my client’s family and my employer.
At such a busy time, we hope our care professionals stay safe and healthy, and we want to give our special thanks to all our dedicated and hardworking staff who are always there to look after our clients.
Live-in care roles are perfectly designed to make a difference to the lives of older people. At Christmas time, you can make even more of an impact on the lives of those you care for. Simply having you there is already improving their quality of life, but extra activities can make the festive period more special for them.
Do you want to make a difference every day? To experience that satisfaction that comes from helping others? By starting a job as a live in carer you have the chance to make this difference caring for someone in their own home.