- 05 October 2023
- 14 min read
My Career Pathway From Carer To Home Manager With HC-OneSubscribe To Advice
Home Manager, Carrie Davies, outlines her career pathway and explains how her employer supported her journey, and nurtured her passion for Dementia Care.
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When Did You Join HC-One And What Made You Want To Work In Dementia Care?
I was a Health and Social Care A-Level student, studying at sixth form college for a couple of years to do that and I did well. I excelled in doing my Health and Social Care A-Level and did particularly well in my module on communication.
I based a lot of my coursework for my A-Level studies on my own personal experiences, particularly my elderly Grandma. My grandparents were the traditional older grandparents who like baking every weekend and I always enjoyed visiting them and had good relationships with them growing up.
I've always been told that I've got an old head on my shoulders and have been mature for my age, so I've always communicated better and got on with adults and elderly people, even at a young age.
When I turned 18 years old and I’d achieved my A-Levels, I started working in home care for a home care service.
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My First Experience In Dementia Care
I soon realised upon starting the job that I engaged and had a spark with people that were more confused. At around the age of 18 – 19 years old, I supported a lady to move into a care home following raising safeguarding concerns.
The lady really struggled with communication verbally. I figured out that I could still communicate and understand where she was coming from. There was one day where I encountered the first trigger that made me realise the lady was at risk.
She had trousers on, but she kept rubbing her legs and light stains appeared on her trousers. I asked her to roll one of the trouser legs up and she had little cuts all over her legs which looked like little paper cuts. I asked the lady how she’d got the cuts and how these had happened.
She struggled to verbally communicate to answer but kept pulling at the hairs on her legs. That’s when I realised that she'd been trying to cut the hairs on her legs with a pair of nail scissors. The lady only had one living relative who was her nephew.
The nephew was an elderly gentleman himself and did not have knowledge about women’s grooming and pampering. I reported the little cuts on the ladies’ legs to safeguarding and helped with supporting the cuts to heal.
I really loved spending time with her and in the end, I asked the nephew to buy some hair removal cream and explained to him that she wants to keep herself personally groomed and presentable as she’s done from a young age, and this is the safest option to allow her to do this now she’s living with dementia and needs some assistance.
She was over the moon when we helped her use the hair removal cream but shortly after this, she ended up moving into a care home. This made me realise that I absolutely loved working with those living with dementia.
I got married at 20 years old and just before I got married, I applied for a job at Silverwood Care Home, and I got the job. As soon as I came back off my honeymoon, I started as a Night Carer at Silverwood Care Home.
My expectations about what to expect with working in dementia care were unrealistic. I thought that there would be some pleasantly confused people like the lady I’d supported previously and that I was going to spend my time making tea and reminiscing.
However, when I arrived at Silverwood, my eyes were opened to all the different stages of dementia. I went home from work a few times heartbroken because people had passed away or experiences I had working with people who had more advanced dementia.
Working in dementia care pushes people out of their own comfort zones. I'd only seen and experienced working with one person living with dementia, so it was a big learning curve for me.
However, the team that I worked with were supportive and I believe being confident is an important characteristic to have when working in dementia care. You need confidence to do things that you wouldn't normally do. I remember one day I walked into the lounge at Silverwood which had residents in.
Moving From Carer To Home Manager
I joined Silverwood Care Home when it was a Southern Cross Healthcare Care Home before it was taken over in ownership by HC-One and I've stayed there ever since.
Since HC-One took over ownership of the home, HC-One have really helped me to develop in my career and provided me with the support I needed to do so. Despite achieving my A-Levels, I needed to do my NVQ to work in a care home and progress in my career.
I completed my NVQ and within a couple of months, I'd been promoted to the position of Senior Carer. I worked night shifts originally as a Senior Carer before becoming a Day Senior Carer.
I then applied for a Unit Manager position before gradually progressing to the roles of Deputy Home Manager and then Home Manager. Whilst working as a Deputy Home Manager, I worked very closely with the Home Manager who taught me a lot of knowledge and skills, we had a great relationship built on trust.
When she progressed to work as a Home Manager in a HC-One Nursing home, she recommended my name to be put forward for Home Manager at Silverwood. Following being interviewed I was successful in being given the position and I've Home Manager now for five years since November 2018.
Having those colleagues in senior positions that believed in me and supported me has been key to my development and career progression at HC-One. If I didn’t have people like that in my life, I wouldn’t be where I am now.
That’s why I do the same for my team now to help them progress in their own careers at HC-One. HC-One is a great company to work for as it’s very structured. You are provided with opportunities to speak to other Home Managers and Local Authority Managers.
The support you receive from HC-One is second to none and if you ever need support, you know there’s a support function or team that you can reach out to for support and advice.
Even having been a Home Manager for nearly five years, I am always still learning because new situations arise that I've never dealt with before but there's always somebody to support you.
It’s really reassuring to have all the support services that HC-One provide to support you when you ask for it whilst not being micro-managed. My Grandma's got Alzheimer's and she lives at Silverwood Care Home.
She’s been living at Silverwood for the past two years, and she's been thriving. She's now 93, and her wellbeing has improved significantly.
It's reassuring for my family, and I want to give other people that feeling with their loved ones now that I've experienced what it’s like to have a loved one living with dementia from a personal level.
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What Are The Main Challenges Of Working In Dementia Care At HC-One And How Do You Overcome Them?
One of the main challenges I face working in dementia care is changing and different attitudes. When I started working as the Deputy Home, my Home Manager didn’t like taking positive risks for those living with dementia care and I like to take positive risks.
We helped balance each other out and she helped me manage risks whilst I changed her mind set in regards to taking positive risks to residents to live their lives more independently in a safe manner.
A recent challenge which took place over the last couple of years was the taboo around affection between residents living with dementia. We had a couple of residents who were both widowed, who had come to live in the home separately.
These two residents found companionship and enjoyed showing each other affection. Colleagues and Social Workers were concerned saying that we couldn’t let them do that as they don’t know what they are doing.
I’ve had to have discussion with them regarding mental capacity and their best interests. It’s all about managing positive risks, providing evidence and care plans to ensure residents best interests and mental capacity are considered.
I had to try to change their attitudes regarding this and open people's minds around those living with dementia and their needs, as there’s a lot of stigma regarding this.
Whilst there’s challenges around trying to change people’s attitudes, it’s also quite rewarding to educate people. The dementia training programme at HC-One is good and it’s about looking at somebody as a whole person, not just dementia as a condition.
It’s about questioning why somebody living with dementia may be upset through looking at their personal life and medical history and bringing all this together to look at the person as a whole.
It is so rewarding when somebody is expressing challenging behaviour, or they are distressed, and through doing some digging and detective work you manage to find out the reason why and can resolve the challenging behaviour and why the individual is distressed.
There is always a reason behind an individual living with dementia’s challenging behaviour and there is no better feeling than discovering the trigger and reason behind it, it’s amazing!
An example of this is when we had a gentleman who lives at the home who would walk around shouting and started fretting about a fire. The gentleman thought he owned the building and would turn off all of the lights.
I had to explain that the building was owned by a care home company and that we would be paying the electricity bill, so he didn’t have to worry about the lights being left on which settled him a little bit.
However, the gentleman continued to worry about there being a fire risk and so I decided to have a conversation with the gentleman and addressed him as ‘Sir’, I said ‘Sir, can I just run something by you? Because I’ve done some work around fire and I just need you to have a look at something for me’.
I proceeded to get the fire book out and showed him the emergency contingency plan that would be put into action if there was ever a fire in the home. I showed him that all the fire doors shut in the event of a fire, and I explained what would happen in the event of a fire.
I also showed him his own evacuation plan and how we would get the gentleman out of the building in the event of a fire. This settled the gentleman’s challenging behaviour and the respect I showed to him as being the owner of the building, it worked and stopped him fretting about a fire.
There was also another gentleman who was showing distress and he was having a bad day. We then discovered that he used to work at the steel works and that his nickname was Waggy.
Following discovering his nickname, every time the gentleman became angry, we’d say, ‘let’s calm down Waggy’ and he responded well to that. It was just a simple action but through finding out what his nickname was at work to have that familiarity when he was angry, then turned the situation and lightened the moody and it just calmed him down
It's really important to find out as much as possible about a resident’s life before they came into care, for example their life history, about their family, what did they like doing and what they don't like doing, their hobbies, what they like to read and watch, and what music they like to listen to, to be able to assist with these situations.
I overcome the challenges through following the HC-One ‘one team’ approach. It’s not just the carers at the home who care for the residents, it’s everyone working in the home.
For example, a lot of the ladies living at the home have previously done cleaning as a job or/and were housewives, family makers and homemakers. The Domestic Team usually have a resident helping out with the cleaning, sweeping the dining room and tidying the bedrooms, which gives the residents a sense of purpose and they enjoy helping out.
This has also helped educate the relatives of residents at the home, trying to help them see things from a different perspective of what's important when someone's living with dementia.
Do You Find Music In Dementia Care Important?
Music in dementia care is a miracle worker. If you find the right song that transports them back in time to when they were happy and loved, it's such an amazing thing.
We have a number of dementia musical therapy sessions take place in the home including live entertainers visiting the home every month. We have an exercise class take place every Friday where music is heavily involved.
What Percentage Of Residents Living At The Home Have Dementia?
We currently have approximately 51 residents living at Silverwood, 49 of those residents live with dementia and two who don’t have dementia. The residents living with dementia in are various stages of dementia.
What Are The Benefits And Rewards Of Working And Caring For Those Living With Dementia?
No two days are the same which I like. I couldn't bear to do the exact same task every day, day in, day out. That's just not for me and working with people in dementia care, you can have the most amazing conversations.
I have the most random conversations with those residents who live with dementia, and I laugh every single day. Despite the stresses which come with the job, there's never been a day where I've not laughed at some point.
It is an emotional rollercoaster because obviously we look after, and we care for people at end of life as well.
However, that's an honour when you've cared for somebody at the very end of their lives. It's something that carers always pride themselves on. We have conversations about the taboos, and that's rewarding because it shows that we're breaking down barriers.
For example, I recently showed some students around the home, and I introduced them to a lady living at the home. The lady has a dry sense of humour and when I asked her how she was feeling and introduced her to the students, she said she felt dreadful and mentioned about remembering that her funeral is paid for and it’s in her care plan.
The students were shocked, but I said to the lady that she has educated the students that it’s ok to have discussions about death and putting plans in place. It's a good thing to talk about and it’s about breaking down barriers.
It's rewarding for me when my staff take those steps and find things out by doing the detective work and figuring a resident out.
What Do You Love Most About Caring For Those Living With Dementia?
Sometimes when someone is living with dementia, people lose their inhibitions so someone who might have been prim and proper all their lives might suddenly not care what they say, they'll be bluntly honest which is fantastic at times.
You always have a joke and laugh too every day and as people lose those inhibitions, it’s fantastic to have honest conversations. I love that about people, and I think people should be more honest and not shy away from having those conversations.
What Has Been The Highlight Of Your Career So Far?
I've always been someone who is confident, but I've always had an element of self-doubt. We had a big conference at the Etihad Stadium a few years ago when I was a new Home Manager, and I was presented with an award for the ‘New Care Home Manager of the Year Award’ in November 2019.
To be recognised for the difference I was making was incredible and winning the award within my first year of being Home Manager at Silverwood was such an incredible achievement.
That made me realise I had made the right decision to become a Home Manager. I think another proud moment for me as well is that I've reflected on working through the COVID-19 pandemic.
What Do You Think We Need To Do To Attract More People Into A Career In Care?
I think increasing pay and rewards as well as providing realistic expectations and making people aware of what the challenges are with working in dementia care. I think helping people to balance their expectations and to be realistic.
I think that is a big one because there’s a lot of people who start working in dementia care who aren’t prepared for what they experience as they have different expectations of what they will face, and it can put those individuals off having a career in dementia care.
What Advice Would You Give To Someone Who Is Thinking About Entering A Career In Caring For Those Living With Dementia?
What Should Individuals Expect From Their Job As A Home Manager In A Dementia Care Home?
Expect the unexpected and to be prepared for managing and dealing with different scenarios.