This important piece, truly outlines the work of a carer who was employed to care for people within their own home. Recognise any of the issues?
Well it was a struggle to get out of bed today, day 15 without a break. I have to work extra to be able to afford essential repairs to my car, without the car I am limited to the amount of work I can do and areas would need to be restricted meaning less money to live on. Yet there is no petrol allowance or consideration to the increase in my insurance.
My first call today is to assist a lady out of bed; it’s a 2 person call as she is very disabled. When I arrived there was an awful smell, I then noticed that her commode had not been emptied the night before and had been placed right next to her bed, how she managed to sleep is a wonder! We have 1 hour to assist but once she is safely seated I left the other carer to assist with her breakfast and tidying up as my next call often takes much more time than is allocated.
Mrs M is fast asleep when I arrive, she likes a lie in but they regularly give her a 9am call so that we are able to fit more people in. I offer her a drink to entice her to get up this alone can take 20 mins today I’m lucky, 10 minutes and she is ready to go into bathroom. Mrs M has difficulty with her bowels so I leave her alone to use the toilet. 15 minutes later she is ready to get washed. As this is a ½ hour call I am left with 5 minutes to get her washed, dressed, meds prompted and make her breakfast. I have reported my concerns but social services say this is an adequate time scale – I disagree! I would never leave a client because their time has elapsed so I carry out all tasks as required – if a little rushed and leave 20 minutes late.
Luckily my next client lives with a family member but as it is several miles away I arrive almost ½ an hour late. Today is her trip to the daycentre so her family have given her breakfast and started to get her dressed. As most of the work was carried out before I arrived I have condensed a 45 minute call into 20 minutes giving me time to get to my next call a simple medication prompt.
Mrs C has dementia and often requires more assistance that is currently in place. I offer her breakfast and a cup of tea and check the house is safe. She has no family nearby and suffers from agoraphobia so the 3 calls a day she receives are her only social contact. I make an effort to sit and chat while she has her breakfast and reading through her file I notice that yesterday evening the carer was here for only 10 minutes.
As we are very short staffed in a different area I have been given some new calls to cover 15 miles away this trip alone takes 25 minutes. So far today I have spent 1 hour travelling and its only lunch time, that’s 1 hour of my day at work that I don’t get paid for! I am running behind so after preparing a microwave meal and a cup of tea for the service user I run out without having time to have a conversation, it makes me feel so guilty but there is always someone else waiting.
By the time I arrive at my next call it is 1.45 and the lady is very unhappy at my time keeping, I apologise and explain how far I have come but she very angry with me. I can feel my head pounding knowing that I am going to be late for a sit I have to do next. I sit with the lady while her daughter goes shopping but as I am ½ an hour late she will come back ½ an hour later which means I have childcare issues! Again! I phone around and get my 76 year old neighbour to agree to sit with my children so that my husband can go to work. It’s nice to get home and see the kids they were in bed when I left, but I haven’t seen my husband at all.
Miles travelled: 42
Unpaid travel time: 1 hour 45 minutes.
Early start again today house was very quiet as I left at 7. The schools are shut for summer but I haven’t been able to do anything with the kids, and as I need the car they don’t get very far with my husband either. I arrive at the first job on my timesheet only to be shouted at as the lady wants a 9 am call and they keep giving her very early calls she refuses to let me in, I wish they would consider peoples choices more.
I report the matter and carry on early to my next lady she is quite happy for me to be early as we can have a cup of tea and a chat after I have helped her dress. I love it when this happens I also get chocolate biscuits which is great as I haven’t had time for breakfast and it’s very unlikely I will get time for lunch either.
I know when I arrive at Mrs. B that all is not good. She is sobbing uncontrollably as I enter and I struggle to understand what she is saying. I am due to be here for ½ an hour to assist with washing and dressing then encourage her to eat. I spend 20 minutes trying to calm her down before I can even suggest getting started. Mrs B is due to have a shower today but I have to assist with just a quick wash and dress before leaving her with some breakfast. I am supposed to monitor her food intake as she has been refusing to eat but I am already 20 minutes late so I really have to get on. I report this to the office.
I am back at Mrs C’s for a medication prompt , I have 1 hours break after this call then I am due to come back for her lunch. I decide just to stay, Mrs C needs assistance with domestic tasks so I encourage and support her do some washing and while I cleaned the bathroom she hoovered through. Mrs C really enjoys these normal activities and it’s great to see her looking so proud of her achievements today.
I get to the lady who shouted at me yesterday at a much more reasonable time, she even apologised – but really it’s something you get used to .I made her lunch and made sure I was with her the whole ½ hour as I didn’t want to upset her again. I had a break today then back at 5. My husband is off today so I can work later. We have a sandwich and a coffee and I see the kids for a bit before I head off again. My son begged me not to go. He was screaming as I left the house I don’t think we have spent more than 4/5 hours at a time together this holiday as I am desperate to make sure my car is road worthy.
I have 3 tea calls and 2 people to undress a catheter bag to empty, 1 medication prompt and 2 men to put to bed so I can’t afford to get stuck in traffic this evening. It all seemed to run quite smoothly only having to cut the odd 10 minutes off calls to allow for travel. My last call always runs over I am due to finish at 10 but most staff don’t take the time to speak to Mr W , his wife is very ill and they have no children. Mr W needs assistance to get dressed for bed and I also give him medication. As he has little social contact he hangs onto everything I say and begs me not to leave, I tidy around while we are chatting, basically making the floor safe to walk over. Social funding has been reduced and his services have been cut Mr W is severely visually impaired and needs help with domestic tasks but as he has to pay privately for this he has cancelled these calls. Mr W is using this money to pay for assistance and transport to the hospital to visit his wife. I eventually manage to leave at 10.40 knowing my husband will be very unhappy at how late I am and all the kids in bed when I get back.
Miles travelled: 36
Unpaid time travel: 30 minutes
Unpaid work time: 1 hour 40 minutes
A whole day without the worry of how much petrol will cost or if my brakes will continue to work. The car is booked in for repairs and I have a 2 man run with another driver. I was a little confused that my timesheets stated I started at 5, but after phoning the other girl she said it was ok for her to pick me up at 7. It became quite obvious early on that this is call cramming at its worst!!
Each service user was rushed in a way I honestly haven’t seen before, on one occasion as we were leaving I said ‘I will just open the curtains ‘ to be told I had no time and her husband would have to do it! We managed to cover 6 hours work in less than 4, the driver seemed positively proud of her ability to reduce the timing of calls. I was even warned before entering a house not to get into conversation as this would just hold us up! At one point I asked why she had so many people to see when it was obvious they were not getting the care and support they so needed. She told me the office staff knew she was quick so just piled on more meaning she could get paid 60-70 hours a week for working much less.
I felt extremely disheartened at what I have seen today, but given the lack of pay and poor terms and conditions this way of working has become the ‘norm’ for many.
Tonight I feel like crying – I’m not sure if its work or the £280 I’ve just had to spend on the car. After finishing early I would have loved to take the kids somewhere nice but that’s quite frankly impossible, we walk to the park – I worry about using petrol for non work purposes.
Miles travelled: 0
Unpaid travel time: 0
Unpaid work hours: 0
Day 18, this is beginning to be a real struggle, after an early night I expected to jump out of bed feeling refreshed and revived instead it feels like I’ve had a bottle of whiskey. I’ve no time to feel ill I have 4 people to get up and dressed one of those needs a shower then a medication prompt followed by 4 lunch calls and a 2 hour sit. All seemed to be going well until I got to the man who needed a shower, he suffers from dementia and can become rather violent. After struggling to wake him and get him out of bed he became quite angry (I would be angry if someone came in and woke me up to get straight in the shower!) this meant I was held up quite considerably trying to calm him down. I have 45 minutes for this call which often is sufficient time but today I was there 1 hour 5 minutes. I usually feed him his breakfast but as I had over run so much his wife offered to help out once id got him ready so I left her to do this while I hurried on. Mrs C was next on my list luckily a medication prompt can be done in 5 -10 minutes so I was able to make up a bit of time , I know how much she loves a bit of social interaction and I feel so guilty having to leave her with just a hello – goodbye.
With little or no information on service users it can come down to guess work on a lot of calls. My next medication prompt told me she had taken her meds I was not convinced. After offering her a cup of tea I called office to ask where medication was kept so I could check. I found her medication along with 11 old dosette packs all of which contained medication which had been missed, others must have accepted her explanation and left without ensuring administration. This meant I had to return all packs to the pharmacy and get a receipt , this took a good 25 minutes of my time – time again I don’t get paid for.
Some days I think about getting another job, I would get paid more and pay less in petrol if I worked in a supermarket. But I don’t think that a possibility, I love my job; I really do care and have wonderful relationships with my service users and their families. All I want are better terms and conditions and a living wage would be nice!
As per usual I ended up running late thanks to the medication error, so managed to see my husband for about 5 minutes before he flew off to work and I got the kids ready for bed. I feel like a single parent some days.
Miles travelled: 39
Unpaid travel time: 40 minutes
Unpaid work time: 45 minutes
Ahh – only another 15 hours of work ahead then 2 whole days off to spend time with my family. It feels like I’ve been at work for months now. My husband is off again tonight so I am just working straight through. I hope to make at least ½ an hour so I get a chance to come home and see him and the kids, maybe even get something to eat!
Well that was a stupid idea, where did I get the idea I may get a lunch break, I thought 15 hours for one day was more than enough then someone called in sick! Originally I had a sit this after noon followed by 4 tea calls, 2 medication prompts 3 undresses and 3 put to beds. I was then expected to fit in an extra 2 tea calls and a medication prompt followed by an extra call to put someone to bed. It’s impossible to stick to my times I had to start getting people ready for bed at 5.30 and cut most call down to 15-20 minutes the medications were done in 10 minutes each. I hate cutting calls but if I didn’t I would still be putting people to bed after 12. Its not always comfortable being out late at night travelling alone but as none of my service users require 2 people I would never get anyone else to come out with me.
Lunch was a dried out offering from the local garage and a multi pack of crisps all of which I managed to eat whilst driving! What with that and the speed limits I have managed to break its surprising I haven’t got myself a criminal record today!
But on the bright side there was no time to waste so I have managed a day without any unpaid time, the down side being I don’t think any of my service users have had a conversation or quality time. After a quick shower and hello to my husband who was waiting up I collapse into bed looking forward to doing something with my family (I haven’t seen my kids at all today), the phone is to be ignored all weekend!!
Miles travelled: 64
Unpaid travel time: 0
Unpaid work time: 0