Mary from Australian Home Care Services (AHCS) was kind enough to speak with us about the work that she and countless other carers around Australia do on a daily basis. We found the conversation both entertaining and enlightening and thought we would share what Mary had to say.
Could you run me through the sort of work that you do? What does a typical day look like?
Personally, I provide domestic assistance for low-care and high-care patients. When I get to the client’s house in the morning, I greet the client and ask her what she needs done. I will normally turn on the washing and then start cleaning the house. If she’s ready to get up then I get her up. She might need to be showered so I’ll get her on the commode and then into the shower. I will then prepare a meal, although most clients only eat light food in the morning.
For some high-care clients, often I need to help change their position. Maybe they are on the bed but they like to be watching TV with their head up. Some like to have their feet up, or have their arms positioned a certain way, or maybe they want you to increase the volume of the TV. I just ask them what they want. Our clients are different from what I do in my home, from what you do in your home. We have to do things the way they want so that things can go on smoothly.
Some clients prefer to shower in the evening, so we will get them in the shower and wash them. After the shower I might need to dry their hair with the hair dryer and some might need to brush their teeth. We like to do everything according to the carer’s plan that they have given to us.
What sort of clients do you work with?
The clients are very different from me, different from you, different from each other. I have a client who had a stroke many years ago and her speech was affected. She doesn’t talk much but she gets angry. This morning, she opens the door and as I ask if she had a good night, she’s already pointing to something to do. She’s not talking but she’s pointing to the phone. So I put the phone away for her, but if I do something not in the way that she wants then she will scream!
The stroke has affected one side of her body, one arm and one leg. I have to assist her into position so that she can even be upright. I get her walking stick close to her because she can’t walk well. If she loses her balance she will fall. I monitor her, stay by her side. I walk her to the bathroom and ask if she wants to shower. “No, no shower today”. If she does talk then I log that, but most times she doesn’t talk. Most times, if I am lucky, then she will be pointing. If she will not shower, she will want you to clean her body, do everything that she is not doing in the bathroom.
After she is out of the bathroom I will go to the kitchen and make her corn flakes and put it on the table with the coffee. I have to make sure everything is where it is supposed to be because if she gets there and can’t find something then she will scream. After sitting down to have her corn flakes, she has her medication. I will make sure she doesn’t put her medication aside or put it in her pocket.
What other sorts of clients do you deal with? Are they disabled or elderly?
I have another client who has had Multiple Sclerosis for more than twenty-five years. He has degenerated because he’s not using his arms or legs. All of his body organs have been affected by the MS, his eyes, even his memories have been affected. There’s a lot to do in his service; he is a very unique specimen. He loves his shower; every morning, winter or summer, we get him out of bed and put him in the shower. When we are in the bathroom then we will shave him, brush his teeth and get him dressed. We then have his dinner prepared for 6.30 and then have a little talk with dinner, we like to do that.
How do you find caring? Do you find it rewarding?
It is highly rewarding, but there are a lot of challenges. The reason I do this, everything I do, I do with my conscience. Everything I do, I put myself in their position. Because what if it was me? What if it was my daughter? It’s what I love doing but there are a lot of challenges. One must be patient, because often a client’s Mum is the manager and whatever Mum says we have to do. But I do what I know is right—I have to make them happy. That is our duty of care. So that’s why carers need to be very humble, very patient in order to take care of these people.
Our sincere thanks to Mary and AHCS for taking the time to speak with us and for the fantastic work they do for our community every day.