Carer interviews: ‘Their home first. Our work second.’

Mar 4, 2019

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Carer interviews: ‘Their home first. Our work second.’

Carer interviews: ‘Their home first. Our work second.’

“All of the bad press for the carers – don’t tar us all with the same brush. All the bad is out in the news because other staff members have spoken out against it.”- Catherine

In my previous blog, I introduced Amy, Karen, Catherine and Margaret, professional carers that work at Castle View Care home. I had the opportunity to interview these amazing women and ask them to share their experience of caring for people with dementia.

When you are looking after someone with dementia at home, it can sometimes become overwhelming, and you may have to consider residential care. One of the topics we discussed was the bad reputation that care homes and nursing homes tend to have. People often feel guilty when they decide to place the person they are looking after in a home. When I asked Amy, Karen and Catherine about how people view homes, they said: “A lot of people see it as a prison. They think that’s it.”  From what I had seen this definitely wasn’t the case for Castle View, so what then differentiates a good home from a bad one? And what are the benefits of a care home?

What makes for a good care home?

You can tell from the atmosphere”, some seem very clinical, others seem like a family. When you walk into Castle View for example you can hear laughing and joking. Amy, Karen and Catherine recommend “Get a feel for the place. Put your family somewhere where you know you’d be comfortable. Know they’re being looked after”. Ask to be shown around to see the bedrooms, bathrooms and communal areas. Margaret says a good home is ‘friendly, open and honest’.

What are the benefits of being in a care home?

When someone with dementia goes into a care home, this can be a difficult time for families. That’s often because people tend to think about the negative more so than the positive. So I asked about the benefits of being in a care home for someone with dementia and their families:

  • They will be safe: When someone with dementia comes to live in a care home, they will live in an environment that is built to be safe for them. They’re free to walk about as much as they want and be safe..
  • There will always be company: Whether it’s staff or other residents – someone will always be around. ‘“they will have two totally different conversations but they bounce off each other. They will still laugh. It’s quite amazing to see. Sometimes I ask myself – who has got dementia – me or them?
  • They will be looked after: There is 24-hour care with trained staff that know what they are doing.
  • Family members can have a normal relationship again: Rather than having to care for your parent or partner you can have regular visits and have a more normal relationship again. “Families are free to come in and have dinner, take them out for the day, bring in food for the day. This is their home.”
  • They will be active: Homes like Castle View organise lots of activities designed for people with dementia. ‘We have trips out with the minibus to Helensburgh for fish and chips. We organise a St Andrews Night, entertainers come in, we go out to allotments for doing the gardens, and we also have a labradoodle and a pony that visit.’
  • Support for the family: At a care home the staff can support carers, too. “We’re here to help, not to take over”.

When is it time to place someone in a care home?

To place someone in a care home means knowing when you need help. And everybody is different.

Margaret says “It’s a hard decision. I’ve been on that side. It’s nothing to be ashamed of… My mum had her leg amputated because of bad arthritis and we were told she’d have to go in a care home. But we managed 9 years at home through sheltered living and care packages, before she moved to a home.”

Deciding for a loved one to go into a care home is a very personal decision that is entirely up to the family. If you can take good care of the person with dementia at home, that’s great. But if you are struggling and need support, don’t hesitate to ask for it.

Final thoughts

I asked everyone to share with my what they found most rewarding and what they found most difficult about caring for people with dementia.

Catherine, Amy and Karen all agreed that saying goodbye was definitely the hardest. Palliative care involves making “that last day of somebody’s life comfortable and easy”, and this is something they all enjoy. But “it’s the worst part of the job when they pass away. You build up such a strong bond with the residents and the families as well.” I asked how they deal with saying goodbye, and they say: ‘We grieve. We chat amongst ourselves – do you remember when so and so did this? We’ve all got our wee things that we do, like opening a window and letting their spirit out’.

The most rewarding thing for them is to see the people they care for being happy and safe. They tell me about one of the ladies they care for that ‘lives in her own wee world and she’s so happy’. You can often see her taking her imaginary dog for a walk and bending down to pet it. One time Karen went to pet the dog, and the lady looked at her and said ‘What are you doing? There is no dog there.’ Karen looks at me, laughs and says “Sometimes I think they’re playing you.

They all agree that the best part are those moments of love, where they get something back for all their hard work: ‘They come up and give you cuddles. I like the cuddles and sometimes at night-time when we tuck them into bed, they say ‘I love you’.

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Please note that all opinions are the writer’s own and Castle View did not pay for this article.

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