What image springs to mind when you hear the word ‘carer’? For some people, it’s a nurse in a clinical uniform. For others, it’s a person wearing a shirt with an agency logo on it.
This is completely at odds with how a carer might wish to be seen. In many cases, it’s not what the person needing care wants either. In this interview with Helpd carer, Karen, she shares her experiences of starting out in nursing, working for an agency and becoming self-employed.
Q. What does being a carer mean to you?
It’s about doing everything you possibly can to help a person to feel better. This can mean doing things that other people don’t want to do or are afraid to do – from assisting with feeding and bathing to cleaning the inside of an oven. It’s also not just about providing practical help – often the greatest benefit clients gain from having a carer is companionship.
Q. How did you become a carer?
When I left school, I went straight to work in a hospital as an auxiliary nurse which led to me working in nursing homes and care homes. I took a few breaks to have my children so you could say I’ve been caring non-stop for 30 years!
Q. Why did you become self-employed?
Before becoming self-employed I worked for an agency, but as with most agencies, you only had 20 minutes to half an hour to help each client. I had to see 15 clients in six and a half hours which meant that I couldn’t offer the level of care that I wanted – or the client needed. I also noticed that the agency was charging silly prices yet only paying carers the minimum wage. I didn’t think that this was fair for the carers or the clients. So, when I saw an advert looking for a carer to provide three hours of care five days a week, I decided to take the plunge and work for myself.
Q. What can you tell us about your clients?
I now have three clients – two ladies in their 50s and a gentleman in his late 90s. What surprises people about my clients is firstly that the two ladies are so young – most people’s perception is that clients must be elderly – and secondly the gentleman I care for is happiest when I’m driving him in my sports car for our Friday lunch outing. Just because you need a carer it doesn’t mean that you don’t have a zest for life!
Q. What’s the best thing about being a self-employed carer?
There are so many benefits to being self-employed for me and my clients. To begin with, we have chosen each other which means that there’s an immediate bond. We also agree the number of hours I work so I can make sure their needs are properly met. Both of my ladies have around two hours per week with me, and I spend three hours per day, Monday to Friday, with my other client.
There is also the fact that I am properly paid for what I do. My clients and their families are happy to avoid the usual high overheads associated with typical agencies and instead pay a rate that reflects my experience.
The best thing of all is that I feel truly appreciated. I get to spend quality time with my clients which means that their needs are properly met – they don’t feel like they are a job that has to be ticked off a list. The feedback I get from them and their families is wonderful.
Q. What kind of things do you do for your clients?
It varies. For one of my ladies I do her shopping as she’s unable to leave the house. I also manage the collection of her prescriptions and I’ll even take the bins out. What works for her is that I understand how she likes to have things done – it makes a huge difference to her overall wellbeing.
My other lady has mobility issues, so I’ll accompany her wherever she needs to go. It’s like spending time with a friend really. Because I don’t wear a uniform, it doesn’t signal to other people that she has a carer – she doesn’t want to appear dependent, and why should she?
The gentleman I work with is an absolute delight – we often say that we’re lucky we found each other, even though he was adamant he didn’t want a carer in the early days! When I went for my interview with him and his family I didn’t think I’d get the job but it just took a little time for him to accept that having someone pop in every day to help with the household tasks, personal care and sorting out the garden would be good for him. It’s great for me too – I’ve been able to develop a relationship with him where we have a lot of fun. He’s fabulous, such a gentleman. I hope if I make it to 99 just like him!
Q. What would you say to carers who are considering becoming self-employed?
I’d say do it. I don’t think that people realise it is possible or they get worried that they won’t be able to find work. The great thing about Helpd is that they help clients to find you and get in touch with you which makes the whole process easier.
The thing is, if you love being a carer and you want the opportunity to really focus on helping to make someone’s life better, being self-employed is the perfect way to do it. The client gets what they need, and you get the chance to make a real difference. I highly recommend it.
Helpd is proud to have Karen on our team of self-employed carers. To find out more about how we can help you to provide the kind of care you want, to clients local to you, call us on 0118 449 2373.