But four support workers at Broom Court give vivid and candid views on their work that emphasises that the rewards can more than compensate.
GROWING up, Kyle McKenzie, 25, wanted to be a policeman but instead he gained job satisfaction with a career in the care industry.
“To be honest care isn’t something I had thought of doing. I’d cared for my granddad who had cancer. I was 18 and there was a job going at my mum’s work in elderly care - she suggested I give it a go and here I am today.
“Ultimately I wanted to make a difference to people’s lives. The way I cared for my granddad I would expect everybody to give.”
He supervises six support workers and works closely with two other team leaders and the service manager. His role also includes staff training, creating rotas and organising wages.
“It is a rewarding job and I really enjoy it. It has been good progressing and moving up a level.
“The experience I have gained I want to pass on to the others. It is good to watch the team members develop and see the residents fulfilling their lives.
“When I came to Blackwood’s Broom Court they were excellent in terms of staff development. I was offered management training within months; that speaks volumes.”
He buys into the Blackwood Care ethos that places an emphasis on empathy: “I encourage a person-centred approach. Everybody should be treated as an individual so everyone’s care is centred around them.
“We have a good laugh and try to promote a happy atmosphere. If residents see motivated staff, then that reflects in how they feel. At the end of the day we are all just a big family.”
Debbie Goodwillie, 46, left her job in Debenhams to look after her new born baby son but felt doubly blessed when she applied for and was accepted for a support worker position at Broom Court.
“He’s now 22, and after I had him I applied for a Support Worker role at Broom Court and have been here ever since.”
She loves the diversity of the residents: “They care for residents of different ages. I didn’t want to work only with elderly people and working with younger people appealed to me.”
Debbie, from Stirling, works with residents on a one-to-one basis in home care where she enjoys assisting with a variety of tasks from social activities to personal care.
She describes some of the skills of her role: “Communication - it is important to get to know each person; their ways, and likes and how they want you to work. If you have a good understanding of your residents, then you are half way there.
“It is just so challenging at times. No two days are the same so there is never a dull moment.”
A highlight of her job has been enabling residents to go on holiday. Many have relished the bright lights of places as diverse as Blackpool and New York.
“Taking someone outside their comfort zone is a big challenge. The homes have disabled toilets, walk-in showers and wet rooms. Everywhere you go has slightly different facilities so it can make it difficult. Some places say that they are wheelchair accessible and you can’t fit the wheelchair through the door.
“In New York, the taxis wouldn’t even stop for us, we had to walk everywhere. Different cultures have different ways of how they deal with somebody in a wheelchair.”
She describes a successful voyage with a resident on a Caribbean cruise.
“It was amazing to see them in a different light outside of their home. We ended up going on another three cruises after that.
“We did witness some challenging behaviour. One of the times I politely asked some Americans sitting in the disabled area if they would mind moving. They said they had been there longer and refused. They didn’t see it as a problem so I had to get the ship’s management. Crazy.”
Over the years, Debbie has made strong bonds with residents at Broom Court: “My son got engaged last week and one of the residents came to the party. She has known him since he was five. I take great pleasure from the fact that I have become friends with a lot of the residents.”
“THE CLOSEST thing to being cared for is caring for someone else,” wrote the late American novelist, Carson McCullers, in her 1958 play ‘The Square Root of Wonderful’.
“I have tried a lot of things in my years. I feel that care work is more beneficial and rewarding.
“You have got to be a people person. We promote independence by making sure that people are doing what they can.
Jackie feels that due to the varied needs of residents she has already learned more than at any other care provider she has worked for.
“Everybody has different needs. We centre care around what they want help with and when they want it so that they feel at home.”
Blackwood have adopted a flexible approach regarding day to day living.
“Residents in the unit phone us when they want to get up from bed. Nobody is told they must get up at a certain time and I like that.”
Jackie feels it is a key factor that she, her colleagues and residents all get along well: “The residents like the staff here and they give you a lot of respect and encouragement too.”
“We often work in pairs to help people get ready in the morning and last thing at night. It’s good because residents don’t feel like you are there for ages trying to sort them out.
“I’m small in stature and older so working with heavier residents can be a strain. It’s okay to ask for help.
“I’m new so I’m still at that stage where I’m learning something about them every day. We chat, see what they want to do or if they are going anywhere.
“One resident does bowling called boccia. He’s got medals for it so we have talked about the competitions he has won.
“They all have their own interests. I have gone swimming with some which is therapeutic. I’ve also gone to football matches.
“It’s good seeing the residents enjoying themselves, smiling and laughing with people they know.”
Jackie is proud of the care she and her colleagues provide: “I feel concerned about where else they would be if they didn’t have somewhere as bright, friendly and lovely as here.”
Margaret Freck from Alloa likes a joke and a laugh at work but treats her job as a support worker very seriously none the less.
Now 68 years old she casts her mind back a considerable way as she recalls nurturing ideas of care work while her children were in Playgroup. She has worked with Blackwood for over a decade and at two other nursing homes prior to that.
“I enjoy interacting with the residents and helping through their lives and supporting them emotionally or physically.”
Her abiding philosophy regarding the treatment of residents is simple: “What would you want for your Mother or Father, Brother or Sister?”
Margaret says that communication, understanding and patience are the main skills of the role.
“You shouldn’t take anything personally either - if someone gets upset it is not necessarily against you it could be their situation or condition.”
She recalls a situation in a previous care home: “I was going along one of the corridors when a tall gentleman came out of his room using a zimmer frame. I noticed he only had on clothes covering his top half and I said ‘would you like to put on your bottom half’.
“He just punched me so hard that I landed on the floor. He had dementia but had been a very intelligent man. That was my worst experience and I didn’t get much support from the manager the next day.”
Margaret prefers to dwell on happier times and emphasises that residents are just normal people with individual needs.
“I love chatting and they like if you have a laugh and joke. Most enjoy a bit of what’s the word, banter. If somebody didn’t want that you don’t have to, everyone is different.”
She said it can be busy: “We don’t rush people, we go at their pace. Or you say ‘take your time, but hurry up’ in a joking way.”
Margaret occasionally takes her turn at Broom Court’s respite facility. She enjoys interacting with the new people who come there for a short stay.
“We have a few that visit frequently. We kid them on we say ‘oh no - it’s not you again’, and they say ‘not you’.
“Some of our clients who are permanent started out in respite. I say ‘sorry we lost your application form’ - you get a good laugh and they know you are pulling their leg.”
The harsh realities of life intrude at times. Broom Court also has a palliative care unit where care is provided for tenants who are terminally ill.
“We have lost a few. It’s sad because it doesn’t matter how difficult a person can be when you are working with them, you still get attached to them and fond of them.
“Even though they are not your family it still upsets you when they pass away. You become close because you are working with them every day, and they are part of your life.”
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