A day in the life of a care assistant

We have put together a collection of inspiring stories titled 'A Day in the Life of a Care Assistant', written by our Care Assistants themselves. 

We are delighted that some of our carers, including Michelle (right), have decided to share their experiences. If you are considering joining Bluebird Care Guildford & Waverley, these personal accounts can give you a real insight into life at Bluebird Care.

"No day in my job is ever the same and that is why I love it! ... all of our clients, their families, care assistants and all of us at Bluebird are unique and wonderful and together we can make a small bit of this world hopeful and happier." Michelle Willoughby, Care Assistant.

Tempted to join us? If you'd like to find out more about caring as a career, please call our Recruitment Manager, Adrienne, for an informal chat on 01483 761000 or email mycareerguildford@bluebirdcare.co.uk

Michelle Willoughby

No day in my job is ever the same and that is why I love it!  On this particular morning all planning is completed, the roster is checked, every conceivable item in my bag or car that I could need. PPE definitely, coffee and food high on the list too.  All addresses keysafe numbers... who knows what today will bring. 

First customer; been here before. 'Easy', I say to myself, strolling up the garden path noting no lights on in house, which is very unusual. Through the front door I go after battling with a very stiff keysafe (hmmm must put some WD40 in my car). Kettle on and off to find lady who is normally glued to the tv in lounge. All is well; she is descending the stairs fully dressed and smiling. 'Good Morning, would you like a cup of tea?', meds given. Now she has to half undress again so I can apply cream to her legs and bottom, but all is in order and a quick chat before moving onto the next lady. 

Greeted by an unlocked door and a hug from the live-in care assistant (lovely), I have been visiting Mrs B for over two years and most days we have a sing song and laugh, today was no exception. 'What lovely eyes you have' she says as I get close so she can recognise and hear me. She is 93 and a fabulous strong character, full of stories of when she was a nurse in the war and she worked for free. Rose and I hoisted her out of bed onto the commode to clean and dress her, she needed some privacy so we retreated to the doorway out of sight. Rose told me Mrs. B had not been too well the last few days and we then heard a howling like a hurt animal and went rushing through. Our customer was having a stroke. We speedily cleaned her up and got her back into bed. Rose called her daughter while I held her hand and tried to soothe her, she did not want to be resuscitated. I left the house feeling unsettled and asked Rose to keep me updated.

Onto the next lady who has Parkinson’s Disease and uses a wheelchair. Usually very bright, bubbly and always puts her beads and lipstick on. Today she feeling very weak she struggled to get onto the Rotunda but so determined we managed and then into lounge onto chair. Whilst making her breakfast I got a call from Rose to say Mrs. B had passed away, I asked her if she was OK and she said she was expecting it. I felt sad because I would not see her again but honoured that I had made her happy and comfortable in her final hour. She was a wonderful gutsy lady and I am glad to have known her and her amazing care assistant who I will always be grateful to as she taught me so much about being a good care assistant.

Onto the next lady. 'Good morning' I say brightly as she opens the door.  Exceptionally polite, intelligent, clean and organised ex teacher. The few weeks I have been visiting her she has gone from being paranoid, nervous and constantly talking going off on tangents, to sitting down with me when I arrive (actually putting her feet up) having coffee and unloading all the things that have troubled or troubling her. We have built a wonderful rapport and trust. We can break things down and put it into perspective. I feel I have achieved a great deal with this lady.
 
When I first started this job I was determined to succeed. I nearly had kittens when I did my first shave on a man now no problem. Catheters, hoists and Rotundas all well and good when watching or in the classroom, but in practice it is a different ball game. But what a thrill when you do it well and professionally. I will finish by saying all of our clients, their families, care assistants and all of us at Bluebird are unique and wonderful and together we can make a small bit of this world hopeful and happier.
 

Helen Hill

No two days are ever the same. On this particular day Mrs B decided after several days of somewhat vague contemplation, that today was the very day to buy herself a new straw hat for the summer.

Now, whilst this was indeed a splendid idea, it did present me with just a few minor challenges. Firstly, a previous shopping expedition to buy a present for one friend had threatened to take a very ugly turn when in the middle of a very large and busy garden centre the one present for one friend turned into wanting to buy presents for ALL her friends, of whom there were a great number! A very unseemly, and extremely loud altercation due to Mrs B's profound deafness, was only just averted by the fortunate sighting of some very attractive potted spring bulbs on special offer. Naturally, I was keen to avoid a similar public exhibition on this occasion and there were some other challenges to be addressed.  

On a good day Mrs B can manage five minutes maximum in the car before feeling nauseous, requiring a 30 minute recovery pause en route, this somewhat restricted our choice of shops. Nor can she walk more than 20 metres without becoming too breathless, thanks to possessing only half the usual number of lungs. This ruled out any town centre shopping and not only this, but it was a Sunday! Where could I take her to choose a straw hat on a Sunday?

As luck would have it, only the week before I had discovered Wisley Garden Centre was only a five minute drive away and it occurred to me, there would almost certainly be wheelchairs provided for customers. So that one fine summer Sunday morning we found ourselves admiring a delightful display of stylish straw hats. Given that Mrs B's wardrobe is ninety percent blue in colour you might think choosing the colour would be a foregone conclusion, but sadly, you would be quite wrong. After much trying on, much discussion, and some ooohing and some aaahing, and then some critical appraisal from bewildered fellow shoppers, the colour was at last settled upon ... blue!

Never in the whole history of hats has a hat been the subject of such adoration as this one, first it was enhanced with a pretty scarf from Mrs B's vast array of exquisite silk scarves, then it was allocated its very own chair in the sitting room (upon which nobody must sit lest they flatten the enormous blue object displayed there!) When not being displayed or shown off to every passer-by, it was to be found proudly adorning Mrs B's fair head. Rain or shine the hat was donned, and the brim tweaked for ultimate chic-ness. 
 
Yes, the life of a Live-in Care Assistant is indeed satisfying!

Jessica Healing

No day in my job is ever the same and that is the reason I love it!

On this particular morning, I was up before sunrise and ready to go to help the customers for the day. No house call is ever the same, with a mix of different personalities, routines and different locations. I like to go to a call with a smile and help them as much as I can in the time I am with them. I help with a variety of different jobs, such as, personal care, housework, or just simply giving them some company. I enjoy the chats and laughs I have with customers too. 

I have had some touching moments in this job as a Care Assistant such as, one customer saying to me “my wife has looked after me for 50 years and it is now my turn to look after her.”  It was so touching to see how much he loved his wife and to help her at a difficult time in her life. 

There are some funny moments that I have with customers too, usually accidently soaking myself trying to turn the shower on and not moving out of the way quickly enough, this amuses them greatly. It’s lovely when we can laugh together, forming a good bond between us. Sometimes I have fascinating conversations too, especially when some customers have stories about their lives they’ve had!

Being a Care Assistant is hard work, but so rewarding. I love that I can make a difference in their lives with the help I give them and the appreciation I get from customers makes my work so worthwhile. I love working for Bluebird Care, the support I have from them is just incredible, as this really helps me do my work the best I can for everyone. 

Since I have been with Bluebird Care, I haven’t looked back!

Leanne Sands

One of my first days as a care assistant I was rostered to a customer called Mr S aged 90+. As always I read the customers care plan before going. I was nervous, but thankfully Bluebird Care supervisor Dianne came with me on my first call and went through the call with me. This was such a big help and made me feel at ease.

Mr S became one of my regular customers going to him twice a day, he was an incredible man with a big heart. Getting him out of bed was always a challenge but I always managed to persuade him out of bed with a cup of tea! Walking to the bathroom with his wheeled walker singing away, we always stopped at the mirror and pulled funny faces! Mr S was a fan of dancing and always tried having a dance with his walker. As well as personal care I used to provide companionship, going on drives and visiting places. Newlands corner used to be his favourite, because they sold ice-creams, whether he ate it or got it down himself, we always enjoyed it. He loved music and I even got him into Kiss 100. On Valentine’s Day I was lucky enough to take Mr S out, he wanted to go for a meal and called me his Valentine, exchanging roses! We became very close and we had such a good professional relationship.

Unfortunately Mr S passed away in 2013 and I was devastated, knowing what I had done and what we did together made it all worthwhile because nothing is more important than helping people live full, independent lives within the comfort of their own homes; which is exactly what Bluebird Care provides.

This was meant to be ‘a day in the life of a care assistant', but I couldn’t chose one day because every day as a Care Assistant is special.

Nicolle Kane

No day in my job is ever the same and that is the reason I love it! On this particular Saturday morning it’s 7am and my alarm has just gone off on a dark and cold winter morning. I’d rather stay in bed but instead I go out in the cold to see my first customer of the day.

Mrs A always brightens up my morning, we sit down have a cuppa, a biscuit and a chat – always surprising me with what she remembers. I only work at weekends as I have a full time job through the week so don’t see her very often. I run a bath and help her in, while she enjoys a hot bath I get the rest of my chores done; dishwasher; laundry; make the bed and open the curtains. I assist her getting dressed – she’s pretty easy as she can do most herself and it feels more like a companionship call.

I’m back in my car and off more my next couple of calls – no real issues accept Mr B had had an accident again so I spend 20 minutes clearing up. It’s been a pretty easy morning and no traffic – I’m thankful I don’t work the week when it must be a nightmare. 

After a couple of hours off (enough time to pop to the market) I’m back in my uniform. At 6pm I have my least favourite customer. Calls with her are often challenging, she doesn’t seem to know what’s going on and regularly misplaces her hearing aids – nightmare! This evening she is adamant she doesn’t want food, finally I coax her into poached egg on toast. She concludes it’s amazing and that I must have a chocolate truffle – I accept (yum!)

I’ve finished a little early as I would normally see my favourite customer now, but sadly she passed away I remember her with a fond smile. I’ve agreed a couple of extra calls on Sunday, my first call I’ve been to before and as ever I struggle to open the door! Fortunately she is able to get to the door, although it’s a struggle and I feel terrible. I get on with the call; empty catheter bag, clean the bathroom, make the bed and do breakfast! “Help yourself to a coffee” I hear from the living room - fantastic - I definitely need one. Next I’m off to a new call, not sure what I’m doing so I text Out of Hours (I’m not supposed to but I don’t have details and once again feel guilty) I’m told she has a Live-in Carer.

Brilliant, my Sat Nav has decided to stop working, I have no idea where I’m going – this doesn’t look right. Eventually I find it and I’m only five minutes late! Finding houses (and fighting locks) are probably my least favourite part of the job. Mrs B’s Care Assistant lets me in and talks me through what to do and then heads out for her walk, leaving Mrs B and I alone. 

She has dementia – I think it’s going to be a nightmare! It isn’t, Mrs B is great and we get through everything we’re meant to and she offers me perfume to put on, this may not sound like much but it’s very personal to her so is almost like a hug. I accept and it smells delicious, she seems happy. Her Care Assistant arrives and asks me to get Horlicks and biscuits, my time is up but she hasn’t finished getting ready – with no more calls I tell her to take her time (she has a hard job and trust me she does it wonderfully). I sit with Mrs B and we have a chat (and another biscuit).  It’s time to go and Mrs B says thank you for coming and genuinely means it. I leave with a big smile on my face and figure out how to get home so I can go for a run (and work off the biscuits I’ve eaten this weekend) and get my own chores done. 

It's Wednesday lunchtime and it’s been a terrible week at work, crazy busy, meeting after meeting. I check my personal email and have an email from the office saying Mrs B’s Care Assistant was in the office to say I was brilliant and they hope to see me again soon. It puts a massive smile on my face and reminds me why I signed up – because the Care Assistants and nurses who looked after my Papa when he was terminally ill were a lifeline, not only for him but our entire family.

I say thank you to them again under my breath and can’t wait for my alarm to go off at 7am on Saturday morning.

Skye Sherwin

So I had some inspiration for this today as had never really considered to do it. Well I won’t give you a day, but at least an hour, as a day I believe would simply be too much!

I arrived at the customer's house on Thursday morning and it was indeed pouring with rain. I was waiting for my colleague as it was a double up, my colleague is very new to this job so I wanted to speak with her prior to going in. I spoke with her about the fact we may indeed walk in and the customer may have passed away in the night, due to being end of life. She wasn't in a good way last night and I wanted to see if she was OK with the situation that we could have, she agreed she was OK so I said follow my lead. 

So the walk up the stairs began then we rung the bell in which the son eventually answered (normal procedure) and said 'good morning' quite upbeat so I gave my colleague an OK smile thinking this seems optimistic, so we proceeded to log in. We then followed the son along the hallway, when entering the dark room I looked at where the customer resides in bed and noticed the look of death but didn't say anything until I was sure. We walked to the bed one on each side and put gloves on. I then gave my colleague a concerned looked and checked for a pulse and her chest there was nothing, she was stone cold in which it was confirmed she had indeed passed away in the night.

I then mouthed to my colleague 'she’s dead' at which my colleague looked pretty terrified, the son then approached the end of the bed with a smile on his face obviously thinking she was sleeping I then said: 'I’m sorry she’s gone' he said 'what?', I repeated 'she's dead', obviously with more compassion as this is sounding. He said 'really?' and I said 'yes', he then went to retrieve his brother and became very emotional, which is understandable.

The next thing I noticed was the head part of the bed had been elevated to a 45’c angle which we left flat last night, I phoned my supervisor who said she would come along, then proceeded to get hold of the district nurses. In the meantime we laid her flat and done the traumatising job of changing her pad the look of horror on my colleagues face. My supervisor turned up and my colleague left for her next customer, very shaken up about her experience. We consoled her sons and finally got hold of district nurses and alerted them, they would come to verify the death. We said our goodbyes to the customer and told her sons if there's anything we can do just contact our supervisor and left.

Well for me that wasn't the end as I got into the car I started rethinking some of it. After finding out the predicted time of death was just after midnight it made me wonder. The son slept in the same room as her but didn't hear her breathing stop and when he obviously elevated her head to a 45’c angle but didn't realise she wasn't breathing. I just couldn't understand how and the other son then said she was fine at 6am. At the time I thought it was strange, but then after thought well she obviously wasn't because she had passed away. It made me wonder, although she looked at peace that morning did she effectively die alone? Her sons obviously didn't get to close or talk to her, as they would have realised then that she was no longer breathing and that there is the sad part of this story that will make me always wonder if she felt alone.

That was my hour and the lesson learnt in that hour, is to be more observant regardless if you think things are OK.

Gabriela Marinescu

IN LOVE WITH MY JOB
 
How difficult is to be a Care Assistant? How hard is to describe yourself as a Care Assistant?

Some of people see this job as vile, or dirty, or hard, I’m not trying to convince anyone how is it - depends on the vision of each other.

I’ll tell you what the heart feels: to be a Care Assistant is not disgrace, is marvelous job if you are born to do it .You must look into your heart and then in their eyes to understand what they need. Throughout my life as a Care Assistant I meet people with different needs, problems, people with dementia, Alzheimer, Parkinson, end of life people, old age people. Each must be treated differently from a medical standpoint but with the same kindness and responsibility:

  • To ensure that the company mission statement, key values and organisational business plan are carried out through all aspects of patient care

  • To ensure all customers are cared for with respect, dignity and in a way which promotes independence

  • To participate in the efficient routine at my workplace and provide the highest possible standard of professional, personal and social care

  • To  maintain an awareness of expected responsibility, team work, commitment and dependability.

To be aware of and uphold core values:

  1. Care and compassion for every life we touch

  2. Respect and appreciation for each other

  3. Teamwork and enjoyment of working together

  4. Focus and discipline on improving the quality of care

  5. Honesty and integrity in all dealings

My role as a Care Assistant is to always look after someone.

Visiting Mrs X daily to prepare her meal at lunch time; an old lady who only had a 95th birthday last week, she is a very smart and ambitious woman who until two months ago managed to fend for herself. She has vision problems, hearing problems also trouble maintaining balance following a fall. Mrs X is aware that she needs our help and though she tries and is willing to do many things herself. Mrs X is a person who has personal habits and good manners and respect. She is grateful for every service we offer her, she is happy to express satisfaction and respect every time when she has the opportunity.
 
All customers have a touch of beauty and innocence that makes them different and we must treat them on the personal circumstances.

I like my job, I’m feeling lucky.

Mike Waite

My typical day starts as normal with the first call at 7am, getting this elderly gentleman up out of bed, medication given, convenes detached, showered, dressed, and day bag fitted. Then getting his breakfast, chatting all the time with him about recent sport, and his visitors today. Leaving him reading the paper and watching TV.
 
Then onto my next client, another elderly gentleman, ex-soldier, similar routine, convene removed and emptied, out of bed, into bathroom, showered, shaved. Dressed then into the kitchen for breakfast prepared by his wife, discussing what he is going to do in the garden today.

I then have two people in the same retirement block, the first gentleman needs to be got out of bed, into bathroom, wash down, then dressed. Then moved into living room for breakfast and medication. A discussion about the football last night and his paintings. Then it is on to the lady upstairs who requires similar, getting out of bed, into bathroom, wash down, getting dressed and then into living room for breakfast, discussing what she is going to do today, visit to the hairdressers and shopping in town.

Then it is on my next client, a blind man who likes to swimming, on this day we go to Woking Swimming Pool and I guide him into changing rooms, get him ready for swimming, then into pool, I swim alongside him, up and down the pool, guiding him and avoiding any collisions, typically we swim for approx. 90 mins and cover about 80 lengths or 1.25 miles. I then escort him from the pool into the shower and changing rooms, then take him back home.

Some clients ask me if I can help them with jobs that they can't do such as fitting locks, fitting a cat flap, changing light bulbs, topping up the swimming pool, pruning trees, cutting lawn, baking bread, decorating cakes, taking them to hairdressers, taking them to concerts, taking them out for day trips such as to the seaside, Portsmouth submarine trip, Brooklands motor museum, Birmingham Car Show or Mercedes Benz museum, taking them horse carriage driving or taking them shopping. I attend doctors / dentists or hospital appointments, so that they understand what was said and write notes for them. I also take clients for other meetings such as with their bank or building society, again writing everything down so that they can remember later.

Then into the evening, and it’s the same routine for a number of patients each evening, I typically have the same four gentlemen every evening, the routine is similar, but different for each and consists of getting each one undressed, into pyjamas, then into bed, various idiosyncrasies for each one to be carried out each evening, medication, washing, toilet, TV/DVD set up and teeth brushing; all routines which you have to remember for each one, along with their likes and dislikes.
 
Then it is home for dinner, a little late, but the body gets used to these busy days!

Julie Kingshott

First Customer – 7am
 
I set my alarm for 5.30 am so I can get up slowly at first and have a shower and porridge with glass of orange and sometimes a cup of tea. I fill a flask with cold water to drink in the car. I turn my phone on get the gentag working while I put my uniform on and fill pockets with gloves one side and aprons the other, my watch and pens in their usual position. I collect my handbag and flask and phones and start on the way to the first customer, it’s now 6.30 am.

I have now arrived at the building that contains flats for the elderly and type in the flat number and wait for the answer. When she asks who is it, I sing out 'it's Julie from Bluebird' and the door opens, I enter the building and make my way to the lady's flat. As I enter the flat I bring in the milk and put in fridge and talk to Mrs B, she is hard of hearing and needs to see me to understand; I log in using the land line. 

It’s now I really find out how she is, has she has breakfast? Has she had a good night? I also think to myself, what does she look like, the colour of her skin, can I get her to smile?

I start the washing up and Mrs B makes her way to the bathroom to use the toilet, while she is there I get some other jobs done in the flat, like making the bed, empty the kitchen bin. When I hear that she has finished in the toilet, I go and assist her to sit on the seat over the bath and put soap on the sponge and wash her back. Afterwards I help to dry and we usually finish dressing in the bedroom. Curtains are opened and we chat about the day ahead or things that have happened.

I make her a cup of tea, tidy the bathroom and remove any rubbish to put by the door. I write the book, making more conversation if possible, log out, say goodbye and take the rubbish with me on my way out.

A Teatime Visit

I arrive at the building near the station and park up, usually in a space furthest from the entrance. A sip of water, and I think what today's date is, get my phone out and phone the number, I sometimes wait for an answer, but usually not long. I rattle off the name of the building, who I am visiting and flat number and the code for today. Then I get out of the car, check my pockets that I have enough gloves and aprons, and whiz over to the entrance. Where a voice will come out of the speaker by the door, a few checks that I am the person she was speaking to, and the door is open.

I enter a lovely lounge area and go to Mrs A's door, tap in a code at the key safe, remove the key and open the door, returning the key and go into the flat, calling out 'Hello!' as I walk in.

She is asleep in her reclining chair and today I have to wake her up. Mrs A is quite deaf and also can't see very well. I eventually rouse her, and she asks me: 'Is that Jenny?' No and I tell her who I am and from Bluebird Care. I make a cup of tea and she starts to raise the chair, I also look in the fridge for what to have for tea (the two slices of beef are now five days out of date, so I make the decision to put it in the bin).

'Oh...' A high pitched cry comes from the bedroom, I know something is not right, I rush to the bedroom and find she has fallen. She tells me she has bumped her head and it hurts. There is no blood, but I go and get a damp flannelfor her head, to help the bruising and gently reassure her. Everything is now calm and Mrs A is sat on the floor, I go and get some fresh water and she has a sip.

'How am I going to get her up? Can she get herself up?' The answer is wait and see, I am going to have to try and help her get herself up, but I didn't know how at this point. I notice she has a hand rail on the bed, so I asked Mrs A if she could move towards the bed and reach the hand rail, as this would be something sturdy to pull on.

When she got there, it became clear she didn't have the strength to pull herself up. I suggested getting on all fours, she didn't know what I meant, so I had to show her, putting on a silly grin, so as to cheat her up a bit. I went and got a cushion off the chair and put it by the bed, still not sure that it would be of any use. Mrs A managed to get onto all fours easily and she climbed onto the cushion and was trying to get on the bed. Amazingly, even though she looked precarious at first glance, I realised that her bottom was actually on the bed and she was trying to lay on her side.

I helped to roll her so that she was lying flat on her bottom and then gently persuaded her to sit up. And to her great surprise and mine she was sitting on the side of the bed. 'You stay there, I’ll get the cup of tea' and she sat and had some tea. Then we went through to the lounge and sat Mrs A at the table and after a little discussion of what to have for tea, I got on and made scrambled eggs on toast.

Whilst she was eating that I phoned the on-call to tell them about that fall and that she was up and having tea. On-call asked me if she needed to see a doctor, I said not now, but perhaps tomorrow morning, and on-call said she would let her daughter know. 

I wrote the notes and then she went off to use the toilet. When she came back, I helped her into her night clothes and she wanted to sit back in her chair. So I made her comfortable and covered her with a blanket and topped the cup of tea up and made a squash to put on the table next to her. I prompted her to have a sip but she declined. She looked sleepy, I wished her well and left.