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Monday, 19 September 2016

Changing Face of Care - the Good, The Bad and The Ugly side of the Care Sector



From as early as I can remember I wanted to be a nurse, I wanted to care for the sick and dying, and if I got the chance I wanted to save a life or two along the way.


When I finally started in the Care Sector it was 1995, I was 16-years old and employed by a ward in my local hospital as a cleaner.  This was back when the ward employed their cleaners and not contracting out.  Back when the matron scared the heebie jeebies out of you and you were respectful to those staying on the ward.  Amazingly enough that was only 21-years ago, and so much as changed within the Care Sector and not all of it for the good.

Firstly, it’s now called the Care Industry, because that is what it has become.  It’s no longer about people, it’s about industry and Money.

Matron’s gave way to Ward Sisters.

Cleaners were out sourced and standards dropped (dramatically).

Secondly, somewhere along the way the “industry” forgot about the reason it was called Care.  Everyone, stopped caring about the people within it.  The government stopped caring about the people working in it and the people working in it forgot why they were there.

When I was 18 I started working in a residential home, which predominately looked after and supported people with Dementia.  I remember the smell as I walked in, the cries of “help me” coming from a lady say in a chair by the door and I remember Dame Vera Lynn being played through the tannoy system – A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square will forever be stuck in my head it was played that often.

I hated my first job in care, I hated that the place smelt, that people sat all day and some sat and cried.  I hated the depressing, boring pictures of a nondescript landscape hanging on the walls.  I hated the “sludge” that was dished up at meal times and looked exactly the same as what everyone had for breakfast.  I hated that Carers were too busy having a “smoke” break to help an old man who had fallen out of his chair so left him there for 10 minutes.  I was slightly (and secretly) glad when after I whistle blew the whole incident my hours were drastically cut and I didn’t have to keep going back there every day.  The home at that time was run by the Local Authority and the experience I had put me off ever wanting to go into a home myself or ever putting a loved one in a home no matter what. 

I’ve since been back, it’s now run by a big provider but even 18-years after I left the same smell welcomes you and the exact same pictures hang on the walls and peeling paint.

I went on to study nursing, and loved it.  I was following in the footsteps of my nana, my great aunt and a long line of Social Workers.  But none of their experiences or stories would ever help me forget that awful home.  And I promised, one day, I would change the way people cared for our elderly, vulnerable or disabled.

Nearly 10 years after I left that awful home, I went back to working in a residential home.  This time for a large charity working with people with varying disabilities – enabling people to exceed their perceived potential. 

Oh and the difference.  


The home was decorated tastefully to suit nearly all (you can’t please all of the people), the pictures on the walls were bright and cheerful, some were the product of a deeply dedicated Activities Co-ordinator and her weekly activities.  There were no cries for help, no one sat around.  In one of the lounges was a young resident dancing to MTV and the radio in the office was tuned into Radio 2.  And from one of the bedrooms came the dulcet tones of Ozzy Osbourne!

Nutrition and diet was paramount to the chef – who made sure meals were seasonal, fresh and well-advertised for anyone who wanted to know what was on that week.

But above all people cared, the carers cared and the families cared.  It wasn’t about business or money.  It was about what was best for the Service User.

So over the last 21-years I’ve seen the Good, The Bad and The Ugly side of the Care Sector.
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