Care Work


Standing outside someone’s home, wondering. Feeling all sorts of nerves, and preening yourself, before standing tall and knocking on the door and anxiously waiting to see who will answer and what will be on the other side of the door.


The sound of curtains being drawn.


The transition between being fresh-faced, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, hair neatly tied and clothes ironed straight… To bolting awake in the middle of the night from an alarm, or shouting – rumpled pajamas, hair in all directions, eyes and mind full of sleep.


Embracing the feeling that your face aches from smiling.


The smell of someone else’s home, and the parts of it – different hand soap, washing powder, food being cooked, medical supplies, the perfume of family members (or other carers). Blood, urine, faeces, phlegm, stomach acid, vomit, ointments, disinfectant.


Waiting for the blue light of the morning to bleed through the curtains; punctuated by the gradual twittering of birds.


Infectious laughter causing a client to laugh so much that they start choking and have to be assisted with suctioning… Only to carry on laughing straight away, again.


Cracked skin on hands, always. Washing them so often that it hurts. The relief and sting of cream at the end of the your day.


Stacking dishwashers in the exact way that you’re told to stack them. Accepting somebody else’s bad temper without rising to it yourself. Phoning your supervisor to vent your own temper, so you and your client can survive the rest of the day without exploding.


Bleach, alcohol gel, hand sanitizer. Putting sterile gloves on for the first time.


Always a kettle boiling for one thing or another.


Distrust of others – will this new carer be one of several shades of dreadful, remember to do things right, treat the people around them well? You can never tell through a “hello” how someone really feels, behind their eyes.


Lying awake at night when you think you might have heard a sound, creeping out of bed to check everything’s fine and quietly slipping back into bed. And repeat.


Gloves breaking. Gloves snapping.


The claustrophobic heat of oxygen compressors and the rhythmic hum of them chugging along.


Hurried phone-calls and rushed words. The last hour of a night shift when you start forgetting how to do the most simple of things, or trying really hard to remember what that thing that covers a mattress is called.


Learning to lie about how you feel – to say that you don’t have a back-ache, you slept really well, that you were getting up now anyway, of course you don’t mind staying, that your head is fine and you feel great, and you’re happy, always.


Holding someone’s hand whilst they cry and wishing that you could do something more to help them.


Kindness, mindfulness, thoughtfulness.


Trying to not do things too soft, too hard, too gentle, too strong, too careful, too forceful, too reckless, too slow, too fast. Trying to be make sure that you do things just right, for each and every person.


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