In Conversation with Caron from the Abingdon Team
We caught up with one of our Wellbeing Support Workers based in Abingdon, Caron, to find out more about her experience of working for BelleVie.
1. Tell me a bit about yourself and why you chose to move into a career as a carer
I have two grown-up boys and three grandchildren – I like to help out with my grandkids whenever I can. My journey to becoming a carer happened organically. I didn’t want to work as many hours as I was in my previous role. My partner owned a café and we worked together in the catering industry. When he sold the company, I put some feelers out. A friend was working at BelleVie (then Wellbeing Teams). I got in touch, had an interview, did a couple of shifts and found I really enjoyed it so made the move. I worry about old people, and don’t think many receive the care they deserve. I like supporting people to stay in their home (often where they have lived for over 50 years), and find it really rewarding to make a difference, even if it’s just to a few people.
2. What is your experience of working with Bellevie compared to other places where you’ve worked? What benefits and support do you get?
BelleVie is really focused on doing the very best for everyone they care for. They want us to go the extra mile and do the same themselves, for example with training and providing PPE for staff during the Covid-19 pandemic. The ethos is very compassionate, and staff really go out of their way to be supportive. Since I started, I’ve received training in first aid, safeguarding, hygiene, administering medication as well as support through the ‘Grey Matter’ programme.
We are a small but really tight team and work through a self-managed teams model. We have a team leader, but otherwise everyone has a role in running the team, for example the rotas, meetings and supporting each other to resolve issues. We have link workers for each person we support who liaise directly with the family and bring any issues to the team to decide action.
3. Can you walk me through a typical week in your life?
BelleVie is very flexible so I can fit my work schedule around my other caring responsibilities. I have my grandkids on Mondays and Fridays, so my shifts are on other days, or on alternate weekends. I usually start around 7 or 8am until 12-1pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I meet with my team once a week and use the time to share information, trouble shoot and iron out any issues. It’s a safe place for us to raise issues, work collaboratively and support each other.
We have regular routes and a rolling rota – I mainly see the same people unless something urgent comes up in which case I would support a colleague. Everyone’s needs are different, and support is structured around the needs of the individual. Some of the people I care for have a visit in the morning and evening. Someone who needs medication or has Alzheimer’s can have 3-4 visits per day. One person I care for has cataracts, so I spend 2 hours there helping with cooking and ironing. Some of the people we support might even book a full 3-5 hour shift.
4. What do you find most challenging?
The biggest hurdle for me when I became a Wellbeing Support Worker was providing personal care to those I supported. I am used to it now, and I overcame this by focusing on the support I can provide, avoiding embarrassment. I found my compassionate side took over and I focused on keeping the person’s dignity.
5. Can you share an example of how you’ve made a difference to someone through your work
I supported a profoundly deaf lady who passed away recently. I hadn’t known anyone with deafness before meeting her. She was born deaf and when we first supported her, she was very lonely as she lived with a family of talking and hearing people and never felt part of anything. She was initially really against accepting support and didn’t feel she needed us.
Through the support we provided she got to the stage where she loved our company and looked forward to our visits. She went from making it clear she didn’t need us to let us support with bathing, looking after her plants, and even taking her on short trips to the garden centre, or for a coffee. She said we totally changed her life.
6. How has Covid-19 impacted on your work and the lives of those you support?
I worked at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic and started practising social distancing. Then I had to shield as my mother-in-law is elderly and lives with us. I still kept in touch with a few of the people we support and they enjoy hearing from me. The people we supported were worried about getting Covid-19. Some of them took a decision to stop their care and their families stepped up to support them. But in some cases, this wasn’t possible as family members also suffered from underlying health conditions. Every family is impacted in different ways. We reassured them by taking full precautions – using gloves, face masks, rigorous handwashing (which is done anyway). Many of the people I supported would have been more susceptible to Covid-19 and were looking to Wellbeing Support Workers for guidance. I educated the people I supported to practice handwashing. BelleVie supported the teams by providing full PPE, so we felt really protected to continue our work.