When mum-of-two Sally Bradford wanted to get back into work after a career break, she had no idea her new role would offer such a powerful insight into the daily struggle her parents are facing following her dad’s Parkinson’s diagnosis.
Sally, 44, lives in Maidstone with her husband Carl and their two children, 19-year-old Holly and 15-year-old Harry. Having worked in financial services straight from school, Sally spent six years as a stay-at-home-mum after Holly was born. When Harry went to pre-school, she started work as a Special Needs Teaching Assistant in a primary school, providing support to a visually impaired child.
“I loved working with children. But over nine years, education had changed so much and it was becoming much more about meeting targets and less about helping children learn in the best way possible for them. I decided I wanted to leave education completely and take a career break,” said Sally.
After spending two years at home supporting her children through secondary school and A-Levels, Sally decided it was time to get back into work. “The children were older and I’d tried just about every craft possible,” said Sally. “It was time to find a new job. My friend Jan really loved what she was doing helping to care for older people, but I’d heard some really negative stories about working in care. When she told me that she sees her clients for at least an hour, and is matched with them based on hobbies and interests, it sounded like the perfect second career path after my time in the classroom.”
Now caring for up to 15 clients, Sally has never looked back, and works anywhere between 10 and 38 hours each week, enjoying the flexibility that the job offers around family life.
Change of outlook
Since starting her new role with Home Instead Senior Care, which provides home care for older people and people living with dementia, Sally has been using her training in everyday life. She says: “I learned all about the ageing process. We’re often very inpatient with older people as we don’t understand their challenges, whether they’re walking slowly or taking what we class as ‘too long’ at the checkout in a shop. My outlook has completely changed, I’d actively help someone in a supermarket now as I’d know how to.”
It’s not just the training that has changed Sally’s outlook. Her personal experience of her dad’s debilitating condition has provided an insight into the challenges faced not just by her clients but by their families and loved ones. She explains: “My dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease about a year ago. Having witnessed the challenges that he and my mum face daily, it has opened my eyes to the effects that loss of independence or ill health can have on the whole family. Not only does my dad need lots of help and support from my mum to continue living a happy and healthy life, but the days can be physically, mentally and emotionally challenging for mum too. It’s like a domino effect really and it comes down to having a good support system.”
Sally has used that experience in turn with her clients and their families to build up good relationships. Just a simple “hello and how are you feeling today?” to the husband or wife of a client can make all the difference.
“Just taking a few minutes to talk to, and more importantly listen to them about how their day is going really does go a long way. I sometimes feel the partners of our clients struggle to share how they’re feeling and really welcome a warm smile and listening ear.” Sally says.
Providing a lifeline
One client where Sally knows her weekly visit is a lifeline for a loved one is 77-year-old Wendy, who lives with dementia. Every Monday, Sally spends three hours with Wendy, providing husband David with respite.
She explains: “Wendy is very fit and able and you wouldn’t know anything was wrong unless you spent some time with her. David keeps her busy but it can be really hard and as much as he wouldn’t want it to be any other way, being a full-time carer for your wife means 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The three hours that I spend with Wendy allows David to have some time to himself, which is important.”
Sally takes Wendy to all sorts of lovely places, they visit National Trust properties, garden centres or go to one of the many antique shops locally for a browse and a coffee. The two have a wonderful time and Sally sees it as a privilege to spend time with Wendy. The hardest part for Sally though is the fact that no matter how much they enjoy themselves on a day, Wendy can never go back and tell David what she’s done and where she’s been as her memory is just no longer there. “That’s tough but the reward is knowing that Wendy has had a ball whilst giving David a couple of hours of respite.”
Getting the balance right
“It’s important to switch off when you go home but you never forget about your clients. It’s hard to accept that you can’t fix everything, but I’ve never once left a client’s home thinking I could have done more,” Sally says.
She concluded: “This job gives me the time to help and support my clients – I know I provide a good service because I’m not rushing to get everything done in a short space of time. If you rush, you miss something and I couldn’t do this job if it was like that.
“This is the first role I’ve had where coming back to work after a holiday is something I look forward to – I can’t wait to find out what my clients have all been up to!”
Home Instead Senior Care has 10,000 care jobs to fill over the next 2 years. Apply at http://www.homeinsteadjobs.co.uk/