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'Not everyone could do what I and my colleagues do'

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Care assistants are the unsung heroes of care homes. We are the biggest part of the care workforce and essential to the smooth running of social care. Without us the whole system would grind to a very sharp stop.

Yet many care assistants are earning only the living wage for a job that is both physically and emotionally demanding.

Why is it that there is so little appreciation of all we do and all we are?  

I have been a care assistant working in care homes for a number of year and find working with people with multiple needs rewarding. Being able to make a difference in someone’s day makes me feel like the long hours and tiring shifts are worth my hard work!

Everyone working in care homes can, and does, make small things happen which have a big impact on a person’s sense of wellbeing, happiness and enjoyment.

We can help bring some focus and purpose to their life, their day or that moment. Often we do this with simple things such as washing and setting someone’s hair, giving them a smile (which takes no effot and costs nothing), holding someone’s hand or making them a cup of tea. It’s not the big things that matter in a day, it’s the smallest. To most of us these things may seem insignificant, but to someone sat in a chair in a room alone for many hours, it’s a moment of joyfulness.

And if we work together we can give so much more.

Not one of us can get through a long, hectic and busy shift without relying on our colleagues to ‘give us a hand’, helping us to reposition someone who is dying so they are comfortable and clean and surrounded by positive and peaceful kindness. 

The many things on the day’s ‘to do’ list require us all to come together and work with one purpose: to do the best for our residents. Working together in a team where each person is seen as an equal, a contributor and a team player is essential if we are to be effective. No team can work well without its leader and a good leader makes a good team.

Being treated with respect is essential. It is a human right and at the core of what is expected of us working in care. The mutual respect between resident and team member, and amongst the team itself, is key in ensuring smooth working practices and the best experience for the resident.

We should always be a team of equals where everybody plays a part in delivering care. We cannot all do the same things but each person’s contribution is as important as anyone else’s.

I always knew that being a care assistant wouldn’t make me my fortune, and I do get satisfaction from the people I care for, but what matters is the appreciation of my colleagues, the residents I look after and their families. I know few people can do what I do. Few people would leave the house at 6:30am, get two buses and work a 12 hour shift before getting two buses back home.

It takes more than the want of money to work in care. It is not an easy option. It means having the ability to show compassion, be caring and ensure dignity for the most vulnerable and that takes a lot.

Jessica Nyirarudodo

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