They only feel sorry for those who do it for free! But how about those who chose to do it regardless of how hard it is?
When I first started my job as a carer for a patient with dementia I began writing this blog and I would feel embarrassed about the comments and messaged I would get praising my work. I would think: “Don’t be silly.
It was not until I attended a public fair for carers in the local shopping center that I realised how undervalued paid carers were. I came across several stands for large organizations such as the Alzheimer’s Society to very small ones that I can’t even remember the name of, and not one seemed to have anything available for paid carers. Walking past a stand with 2 or 3 empty massage chairs where carers were invited to get free massages I was told it was only for unpaid carers, like family and friends. I didn’t particularly want a massage, but that rejection stayed with me and made me think.
Yes, unpaid carers for people with dementia such as friends and family deserve a medal. If you have never taken care of a person with dementia imagine how challenging it might be and multiply it by 5 – that’s a rough estimation. And people who make the decision to give up on a normal life to dedicate themselves to the care of a parent, grandparent, uncle, aunt, an in-law etc take on an immeasurable amount of responsibility and go through an unimaginable level of stress. And the reality is that: this decision to care for a loved one is most of the time not a decision at all. Sending a loved one to a care home is a difficult decision to make both financially and emotionally, and since dementia is progressive by the time a person is diagnosed care in the home is often more suitable until a time comes when it is on the patient’s best interests to finding him or her a suitable nursing home. So choosing to care for a loved one is usually not a choice, but an obligation. But nevertheless these people are giving up important parts of their lives to take care of someone who needs them – and they get nothing in return.
Fairs like the one I came across, which offer advice, freebies to aid relaxation and support to these unpaid carers, are, with no doubt, doing a wonderful job. But think with me: Don’t paid carers deserve a bit of respect and recognition too? I can’t speak for them all. I know that most work for agencies and get, or are supposed to get a lot of support from their supervisors. Like me they work long hours but they tend to work a few weeks on and a few off. But there are people out there who like me work very long hours every day, 5 to 6 times a week all year round, for not that much more than minimum wage and agree to live in their patient’s residence. That is no life people just willy-nilly choose to lead only for the money-to choose and succeed in it a genuine desire to care must be there somewhere.
Six months ago I shared a room with my boyfriend in a vibrant house full of students while I went to University where my mind, social and personal life were constantly being enriched and stimulated. Now I work on the basis listed above and to top it all off I feel that I am turning into my patient. I hardly exercise due to having to keep up with her lifestyle, I have gradually begun to eat less and less and lately she has even eaten more than me which is worrying-I need to watch my diet! My boyfriend laughs, but I’m not laughing at the fact that I’m becoming an old lady.
In a ‘normal job’, let’s say an office type job on a 9 to 5 basis everybody has as off day every now and again where they might just want to slack off a bit and be nice to no-one. But I can’t possibly allow a day where I might feel a little home sick, depressed or tired get in the way of my client’s personal hygiene. I can’t possibly let her notice my bad mood lest it (and trust me, it does!) rub off on her and suddenly she is also in a bad mood and depressed. I need to put on a smile and be lovely to the lady that might just spend that day being nasty and difficult to me for reasons out of her (and sometimes my) control.
So if you know someone who earns a living as a care worker, please give them as much respect as you would give a family member who has had to give up a lot to look after their loved one with dementia. Right now we could be working menial jobs in an office or supermarket checkout where if we wanted to we could do the very least that’s expected to earn us a living but instead we are working for no extraordinary pay, doing things most people would not do for double the pay and going way out of our way to make sure we are doing the job properly because someone’s life and well being depends on it.
Without us I believe those family members would eventually crack and many dementia patients could be admitted to nursing homes before their time. And I also believe that in a time of so many scandals about poor and shameful care in nursing homes we should be encouraging good paid care workers to go on doing what they do by praising them, offering them a free massage every now and again and thanking them for choosing to do what they do.
There are only so many family members and friends in one family, and only so much each one can deal with. Eventually many dementia patients will be cared or by us. And you don’t want us to go into it feeling undervalued do you?
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Many thanks. Anna