What was it like starting live-in care with your client?
Well, she was very welcoming as I came in, I think because she had run a B&B so she welcomed me as a lodger. It was quite straightforward. It wasn’t a problem at all, she knows that she needs help, under all of it she understands what is going on.
What do you consider your main achievement with your client?
Well the biggest one is that we’ve really been able to build her up. She was malnourished when we started, her family had come to stay with her at Christmas and had a shock, they had found her much worse than she seemed.
When we started in January (I was the second carer, I started in February) she was six and a half stone. Now, in October, she is eight stone twelve.
And I found out that she loves going out, so I take her to National Trust properties near her, she loves that, and it really gets her memories going. In fact we went to visit one place, she remembered having worked there and could talk and talk about it.
She is a really independent woman, I can’t imagine her anywhere else except her home. I sometimes wonder about families, sometimes they want to put someone in a care home because that would solve the problem, but that wouldn’t work for her, she would be really miserable in a care home, it would be the end of her.
But as a carer you can see how family dynamics make a difference. My client was a really hard woman, there weren’t many hugs in her family life, she doesn’t show affection easily. And you can see it in the children, what you give in life you get back, and it really shows with this client.
What’s the hardest bit? What do you know now that you wish you had known when you started?
In the beginning, I couldn’t have coped without the training. Absolutely!
But after a bit it got to the stage where I wasn’t looking after myself enough. I was taught in the training, and I believe, that my job is to look after my client. But I spent so much time and energy looking after my client that I forgot to look after myself.
I am now learning a bit to have boundaries, how to look after myself too. But it is difficult with my clients as really I just want to make their lives better.
How is your client now?
It is very sad to see the decline. When I started, she could make coffee herself. Now the sugar is just as likely to go into the milk as the coffee. And she knows it. She says to me “Why won’t my brain work?” It must be the most difficult and horrible thing in the world for someone to deal with, knowing that they are declining.
Her condition makes her very anxious, she wants to know where I am all the time, wants to follow me wherever I go.
But I have a white board now, which I write things on, which I put sticky notes on. Then the relief carers can point at it, and she can read my note, she can read “see you later alligator” and then she recognises my writing and the way I write and says “Ah, that’s Helen writing that, she’ll be back soon.”
Next to the white board I stick up all the leaflets from the properties we visit. That way she can look at them and see where she’s been.
It really helps her when she answers the telephone because then she can look at the leaflets and knows what she has been doing when someone asks her what she’s been up to in the last week. So that helps to make her better.