- 29 April 2021
- 7 min read
What To Look Out For If Working For A Home Care Agency For The First TimeSubscribe To Advice
Alison began a new career in care only to encounter poor standards. This cautionary tale is also a reminder that most agencies do have high standards and that’s what we judge the poor ones against.
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I Had Been A Graphic Designer Until Covid Hit
I began working in care when Covid hit and the company I was working for furloughed me.
I had worked as a graphic and web designer for over 40 years and was employed as a marketeer for a small building firm.
The thought of sitting at home with nothing to do filled me with dread so I told my boss I would leave and find a job elsewhere.
Little did I know at the time that I could have taken the 80% furlough money the Government were offering AND started my new career in care!
The first job I found (which required no previous experience) was working as a Care Assistant for a local care agency.
They offered me full training and were confident I could be employed full-time within a matter of days.
I found this hard to believe but was willing to give it a go.
The work involved visiting a variety of clients throughout the day for early, midday and late calls, starting at approx. 7am and finishing at 8pm with two breaks during the day.
My Training Was A Sham And Inadequate
Two days later, I drove on a very empty motorway to a training centre a couple of hours from home.
For two days, myself and another ten or so students were fed the answers to a series of questions in order to pass the required papers and qualify as carers.
The whole thing seemed a complete sham and I would not recommend this training facility!
The qualifications I obtained over these two days were:
* Level 1
● People Moving & Handling
● Mental Capacity Act Basic First Aid
* Level 2
● Medication Awareness
Interestingly, when I told the course leader that I would be attending to clients alone with only one day scheduled to shadow an existing employee, she did not believe me.
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My First Agency Experience Was…I Reported Them To The CQC
On the third day I drove home to find my care schedule already in my inbox.
I was to meet an existing employee at a client's house, early the next morning.
I spent day four shadowing an existing employee who spent most of her time in her car, on her mobile phone.For the most part, we arrived late at clients' homes and left early, with the goal of administering the minimum amount of care with the least amount of effort.
The next day, having had no training, I needed to change a client’s stoma bag, which is shocking.
I had no idea what to do and the client taught me the process.
Again, hard to believe but true.
During the following weeks, in my own time, I also completed online training for:
⁃ Dementia Care
⁃ Food Hygiene
⁃ Health & Safety
⁃ Nutrition & Diet
⁃ Diversity & Equality
⁃ Challenging Behaviour
⁃ Communicating Effectively
⁃ Consent ⁃ COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health)
⁃ Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards
⁃ Develop as a Worker
⁃ Dying, Death and Bereavement
⁃ Hand Hygiene Training
⁃ Infection Control
⁃ Mental Capacity
⁃ Person Centred Care
⁃ Pressure Care
⁃ Principles of Care and Confidentiality
⁃ Record Keeping
⁃ Role of the Care Worker
⁃ Safeguarding of Vulnerable Adults
Again, it was easy to obtain the answers to the questions with no training or expertise.
So, once again, I would not recommend this on-site training provider.
I worked for the agency for approx. four months and reported them to the CQC several times.
The final straw was when I arrived to find my client on the floor and unable to get up.
I telephoned the paramedics and then informed the agency that I would not be able to make the rest of my calls, as I needed to wait for the paramedics to arrive.
This Agency Was Only In It For The Money
Throughout my time with this agency, I was unhappy with the level of service I was able to provide.
It was difficult to build good working relationships with clients when you were with them for a limited amount of time and constantly rushing to get to the next appointment.
I also felt that the agency I worked for cared more about making money than their clients!
They also refused to pay mileage costs and I had to battle for the correct amount of travel time to be allocated between calls.
At one point, I sent screen grabs from the AA website to prove the journey time between specific clients could not be achieved without a helicopter!
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Once I Left That Agency I Started Enjoying Giving Care
Since leaving the agency, I have worked as a private carer, domiciliary, on a one-to-one basis, offering personal care to both men and women.
This is the care I enjoy.
Care is personal and cannot be metered out in a limited amount of time or rushed.
To be a good carer you need to spend time with your client and understand their needs (which constantly change).
My current role is live-in, 24/7, four weeks on, one week off.
I care for a lady in her 70s who has dementia and Parkinson’s.
● administering medication
● helping with washing and dressing
● ensuring the safety of my client. e.g. making sure they don't fall over or out of bed
● monitoring them when they are sleeping
● general household duties (cleaning laundry and, well, basically any duties as required by my client and the household)
I live in my client's home with her husband who is also involved in caring for his wife.
I have my own room and bathroom and two hours off each day.
This type of role requires a high degree of inter-personal skills as you must build good working relationships with your client, their partner, their children, their friends, other care professionals and members of the family.
How I Define Good Care
I enjoy caring and realise I learned many skills watching my Mum care for five children and my Dad. I also learned much from bringing up my daughter, with my Mum.
Caring for the elderly is very similar to caring for children.
In my 20s I worked as a nanny and it seems like my life has come full circle. I'm caring again but this time at the other end of the scale.
The elderly and infirm get frustrated with themselves when they can no longer do the things they used to do.
They are disappointed in themselves because they were once independent and strong and now that they need care.
It's all about understanding how they feel. I always imagine how I would feel in their position.
Every day, every hour, when you work in care, you know you are doing something worthwhile.
The people you care for may not always appreciate you.
Sometimes you get the sharp end of their tongue. But more often than not, it's the illness speaking.
Lucky To Have Found A New Career
I'm lucky to have found a new career at this stage of my life, at 59 years old. There's no way I'd find a job in a design agency now as a graphic designer.
And it's a career I can tailor to my own needs.
I can work locally or further afield.
I can work as few or as many hours as suits me.
And I can choose who I work for, where and when.
I feel lucky and I think that helps me in my work.
I believe that having a positive attitude and being thankful for what life brings my way helps me deal with the ups and downs of care.