Care Work: A Reflection
One of the biggest and best decisions in my life to date, is my decision to go into care work. This decision has led me to pursue a career in midwifery and all the experiences I’ve had have taught me the value of respect, dignity, kindness and trust. It has been a big struggle to get to grips with the skills and abilities that go hand-in-hand with caring for people, but it has been a wonderful journey to go through. I would be lying if I said that I’ve enjoyed every second of it, but I’m telling the complete truth when I say that I am so, so pleased that I made the decision to begin my journey in healthcare.
All of the people I’ve worked with (prior to beginning my study of midwifery) have had a disability or illness which affects their daily life to such an extent that they need someone with them pretty much 24/7 to assist them to live their life the way that they want to live it. If you take a second to consider how your life would be simply to accept a stranger into your home, introduce them to your family, take them into your workplace and welcome them into your life, you’ll be starting to visualise the beginnings of how such conditions affect an individual’s life. Try to consider the trust and worry of that person having access to things such as your vehicle, medications, house keys, financial papers… It’s a big ask to be simply accepting of strangers coming into your home, let alone be as welcoming and friendly as the majority of individuals I’ve had the pleasure of working with have been.
Care work is not easy. It has made me push myself in ways I expected (some aspects of intimate care are intimidating, to say the least) and ways that I did not (navigating family politics is difficult at the best of times, especially when you’re trying to quietly get your job around arguments and awkward silences). It has certainly kept me on my toes! More importantly, as I’ve already mentioned, working in care has given me the aspirations into further my skills and abilities by studying midwifery. I know that I would never have had the confidence to apply, let alone the belief in myself that I am able to become a fantastic midwife, if I had not had the experiences in care work that I have.
I think one of the fabulous things about care work (though, I know to a certain extent this is specific to my role as a personal assistant) is the variety of experiences and people you get to meet. No one day is ever the same, and things can chop and change at the last minute! To date, in my role I have: walked dogs; gone grocery shopping; driven numerous cars and vans; gone to pubs, BBQs and family meals; attended university lectures; watched too many movies to count; cooked some lovely meals; cooked some awful meals; done a lot of housework; played ping-pong and gone on some great day-trips. As they say, variety is the spice of life!
Throughout the past two years of assisting people with disabilities specifically, I’m constantly shocked at how other people perceive and treat people with disabilities. It didn’t take long for me to realise that many people will look down on carers; some of the reactions that I’ve had to telling people that I’m a carer have been phenomenally insulting and upsetting, if I’m honest. The more horrible thing, however, is the way that I have seen people react to seeing someone in a wheelchair: disgusted expressions and completely avoiding eye-contact are the most common. Nearly every time that I went into a shop with a client, the person at the till/counter would talk to me and completely ignore the client I was there with. It was embarrassing, upsetting and annoying for me, so I can only begin to imagine what it felt like for the person I was standing next to. I remember working with a particular client who asked “when you look at me, do you see me or do you see my wheelchair?”.
I have been able to meet some truly inspirational people over the past few years – until I learnt about the stresses and struggles that some individuals face in their lives, I didn’t appreciated life as fully as I do now. Every day I try to take some time to feel grateful for the body I have and the life I’m able to lead; the importance of living every day as it comes comes to the forefront of my mind each time I learn about the different ways that the people work with sustained their injuries. None of us know what tomorrow will bring, so let’s appreciate today!