Last Day of Work: Healthcare Assistant

Yesterday was my last day working as a healthcare assistant for the last ten months or so.

It was okay. I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it.

I really hated the hours: most of my visits were only one hour at each client’s house and before I got my car, it would take up to an hour one way by bus to get to the client’s house.

I wasn’t a massive fan of the administrative side of things: there was a near constant flow of time-sensitive e-mails and I felt really pressured to pick up shifts, yet hardly ever ask to have shifts covered for me. I would say that of all the shifts that I was asked to cover, I took about 70% of them, but when I called out sick once or twice in my ten months working there, my boss was really reluctant at first to let me stay at home to rest and literally told me, “You need to be better this weekend.” Also, my bosses asked me if I could work next week even though they’ve had my last day for months now. Such a piss take.

The pay was kind of shit: everyone thinks they deserve more, but I definitely needed more than minimum wage for all the hard work I was doing. These are people’s lives I’m involved in.

What did I do, you ask? A lot of the clients stick to a routine that doesn’t vary much, but may if they’re not feeling great that day or need something extra. Here are a list of things I’d do between all my clients:

  • Administer medication
  • Light shopping
  • Pet care (feeding, short walks)
  • Light cooking (e.g. oven meals) and feeding
  • Make and serve drinks
  • Using the loo (whether it’s emptying catheter bags or physically assisting them onto the toilet)
  • Washing, showering, dressing and other things to get ready for the day
  • Manual handling in almost every case, from using my own body to equipment such as a hoist
  • Domestic tasks such as dishes, ironing, hoovering, laundry, etc.

When I tell people I’m a carer, I often get asked, “So, for like, old people?” and I simply answer with, “Disability knows no age.” My clients range from 20-somethings to 90-somethings, all with different needs and abilities.

Over the course of the year, I worked with eight clients.

There was a bit of turnover, so there are a few clients I no longer work with: one client was put into end-of-life care after mentally and physically deteriorating relatively rapidly over the course of a few weeks, I have not heard about them since. One client had a bit of a turn and was in the hospital and care home for a while and arranged other care when they got home. Finally and most tragically, a client died and I was the first on the scene for the “beginning of the end” as it were.” Some background: the client was pretty independent and of sound mind, only required our visits to help with a wash and some domestic tasks, we did not think they were a massive risk, so what happened was really unexpected. Anyway, I arrived one morning to the client sitting on the floor, fully clothed. After some investigating, I found blood all over the door frame in the kitchen and the WiFi box wire spread across the floor. From what I could deduce, they must have tripped over the wire, hit their head on the door, and crawled back to the bedroom, unable to get to bed. I called my boss and emergency services and a week later, the client passed. It was all very sudden and sad.

Here is a bit about the clients I was still with until recently:

  • One client who was quite independent, making for an easy and lovely visit. Not to mention they had the most amazing modern flat with views of the sea.
  • Two clients were paraplegic. I would only see gentleman every now and again to cover for the full-time carer’s break. I would see the lady, again, to give the full-time carer respite as well as in the morning for a shower or wash. I really enjoyed my visits and chats with her once I got to know her.
  • One client had M.S., which is what my mom has. They probably had the most hands-on visit with the most manual handling done alone as they didn’t have a full time carer, which could be tiring. I think we our relationship changed when they took me to a Foo Fighters concert in London. We went through hell to get there (public transit as a wheelchair user is a nightmare), but had the best time at the gig, I’m glad they were able to go. At the end of the day, I’ve probably put in the most hours with this client, so we’ve gotten to know each other pretty well. Also, seeing their condition has helped me give insight to the future of my mom’s care, what’s next and how I can help. Plus, he had the cutest dog (a Dalmatian). Unfortunately, they have been in the hospital for the last few weeks, but I hope to see them again before I leave.
  • One client had memory and physical issues. She could not mobilize on her own and memory was variable, but she was always really lovely and made for an easy visit. However, things took a turn when her husband also started to struggle. In the space of a few days, he had a stroke (which I was there for and called emergency services) and a nasty fall which led to an increase in visits, namely overnight visits. Usually the visits are easy, but sometimes the gentleman will try to leave the house in the wee hours of the morning and gets cross when you try to prevent him from doing so.

As you can tell, this job was a lot of work. Once I got home, I’d be too emotionally or physically exhausted to take care of my house and my home… because I was too busy taking care of other people and their home. I don’t regret doing this job, but I certainly wouldn’t do it again.

Photo by rawpixel.

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3 Comments

  1. December 4, 2018 / 3:20 pm

    I absolutely couldn’t do it, I think anyone who does care work is practically an angel! My sister works in a residential home for people with spina bifida and she’s always exhausted.
    Cora | http://www.teapartyprincess.co.uk/

  2. Charlene Redpath
    December 4, 2018 / 11:29 pm

    Dear Rachel, I believe you have had a life-changing experience taking care of disabled/dysfunctional/adults. I also believe your experience as a caregiver has given you an awareness of people’s needs (physical and spiritual) that most of us will never experience and that you have become so much more than a biology graduate student. You have matured into a caring, sensitive, well-educated young woman who we are so proud of. Welcome Home!

    Love, AC

  3. December 5, 2018 / 1:35 pm

    I can relate to this a lot. Being a Healthcare Assistant takes such a toll on the carer and I don’t think there’s enough support out there for the people who do it! I also don’t regret my time in such a job, it is certainly rewarding helping people who really need it, but I’m not sure I could do it again knowing how tough it is. I wish you the best for your next adventure! xx
    Alys
    https://alysjournals.com

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