Caring: A new view into an intimate profession

Every person has experienced a time when they think their bosses’ actions are unfair but what happens when their actions affect those who cannot look after themselves? I spoke to employees of a home care company, who revealed the shocking reality behind care management.

Carers tend to every need of your parents, grandparents, daughters and sons when they are less able. From simple tasks such as collecting their shopping for them to the complex task of changing their medical paraphernalia. For a task so important and delicate, you would expect extensive training to be involved, according to the carers of this local company who do not wish to be named due to fear of retribution, three days is all it takes.

“I had three days in a training room, copying from a book and ‘discussing’ answers during an exam and then I was qualified as a carer. I was cleaning toilets for a living one moment, three weeks later I was changing stoma bags on clients having had no technical training what so ever. Throughout my time as a carer I have been to different training days but most of the information you learn as you go’

Further explaining the layout of their branch offices, the carers explain that there is a branch manager, two care coordinators, two senior carers and an administrator. The offices staff all, except for the administrator; also take on care roles when needed. When I suggest that they lead by example one carer scoffs at the idea.

“Don’t get me wrong, the care coordinator in question is fantastic with the clients but her top priority is the company’s reputation”

Telling the harrowing story of their care coordinators blatant disregard for the truth, an ex-carer explains that while on her first shift with her ‘new boss’ she witnessed an inexcusable reaction to the news that a carer had forgotten to provide blind client Mrs M, whose full name cannot be given as she is still working with her company, her medication

“Stopping mid shift we drove straight to the client’s house whose family were there. Instead of apologising and rectifying the situation, she simply convinced the client that someone had been and given her medication and she must have forgotten”

Luckily the pills in question were not lifesaving, ensuring that a missed day would not damage the client’s health but this disturbing story was just the beginning of what they had to tell. One carer passionately tells the tale of a client with whom she had become close. Maureen had cancer and the carers were informed that they were ‘making her comfortable’ until she passed, every morning Maureen would have the same two carers provide her care and they had formed a bond. A week before she passed away, one of the carers had to have time off due to sickness, Maureen’s daughter Charlotte requested that there be no strangers providing the care to her mother due to her delicate condition. When the office were informed of this, they were less than understanding
“When I explained the situation, the office stated that Charlotte was refusing care and they would ‘pull the package’. Charlotte was coming to terms with her mums impending demise and did not want anything to distress her. I was happy to provide the care alone as at that point it was just making her comfortable. The office still sent an alternative carer in with me continuously”

Outrageously this is not the first occurrence of this kind that the carers have had to witness. Jane had had the same carers for a long period of time, the first to admit that her husband’s language was ‘disgusting’, the carers had fallen into a pleasant dynamic with the family and everything was running smoothly. When Jane suffered a seizure she was admitted to hospital, during this time the carers were informed ‘the package had been dropped due to her husband’s behaviour, we didn’t mind and we weren’t given the chance to say goodbye.’

Throughout the interview it becomes apparent that the mistreatment is not simply to the client and their families but to the carer’s as well, although it is admittedly subtle. Working on a zero hour contract, the carers can work up to eleven hours with little, if any break. Asking for an example, a clearly exhausted carer provides a gruelling day where she works ‘from 7am to 11pm once a fortnight’. Even with the breaks provided, if any, this leaves the carers shattered continuously. Working 12 days on, 2 days off one carer comments ‘if we are lucky we get the two days off’. Divulging that the carers are in fact bombarded with texts and calls from a ‘desperate office In need of help’. One carer shows the extent to which the office will go

‘I was due to leave my house to go on holiday at 12pm and the office was aware of this. They rang me that morning at 7am to ask if I could work until 11.30 or would even consider leaving later.”

Whilst the Government are quick to criticise those who actually provide the domiciliary care, the systematic abuse seems to be coming from the higher levels of management. This involves not only the clients but the employees at well.

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