I’m Dee, 51, from West Drayton. I have been with Acacia Homecare since 2015 and started my career as a support worker and now my official job title is Recruitment and Retention Lead. I previously worked in different office settings, from a solicitor’s firm to a telephonist answering calls 8 hours a day. With 3 children (all grown up now), being a single mum, I focused all my attention on my children until my youngest was old enough for me to go out and really look for something permanent. I visited my local job centre on a weekly basis and applied for several jobs daily, some of which I knew I wouldn’t enjoy but I really wanted to come off supported living from the government and provide a stable and secure home for my children.
I didn’t have any experience in care but it is something I thought about more, especially after seeing my own father’s carers coming in to help him before he sadly passed away. I knew it was what I would like to do.
After many applications to various different companies, I received a call from Acacia Homecare who gave me a mini interview over the phone. I was not a car driver but my aim was to find a job and earn enough money to buy one. They asked if I could work weekends and although I couldn’t at the time I did agree to help out when needed.
Within a couple of days I arrived for an interview and was taken through the application process and was immediately sent out for shadowing. These are two days of following experienced carers to understand what the role entails. I didn’t know what to expect when I started shadowing, especially as my first customer was a male customer and I was unsure how to deal with it. I questioned whether it was for me. However, although strange at first it didn’t put me off and if anything it made me want to do this again as I saw how vulnerable our customers were and that they did really need help and compassionate care. I also saw that the customers were so happy to see their carers – for some people their carers were the only people they would see all day.
I received a full induction and training and continued to work with Acacia because they were a friendly team and offered flexibility, especially in times of emergencies. I car shared with another carer so I was able to do customer visits in the West Drayton areas and go into the Staines and surrounding areas. I got so much more experience this way.
I cared for customers with complex needs, those suffering from dementia, with mental health illnesses, physical disabilities and general elderly care. I realised it was more than just personal care – the washing, bathing, helping customers with their sanitary requirements. I was helping people to live their life with dignity and allowing them to live independently. I was a friend and companion to each of my customers and it made me feel good that I could help them through their day by doing even the smallest thing such as making eggs the way they wanted, or supporting them to sit down in their favourite chair to watch their favourite TV show.
My dedication to the role as well as willingness to help out when needed didn’t go unnoticed and I was approached to join the office team to train as a care coordinator. I also got involved with recruiting other carers and I am now the Recruitment and Retention Lead. My current role includes everything from finding carers by attending recruitment fairs, database searching and working with the job centre, right through to interviewing, inducting and First Aid training. Part of my role also includes being on call at times and stepping in to do care calls as and when needed, which I am grateful for as I still enjoy visiting customers.
So what changes have I seen? Well, I bought my own car, completed my NQV Level 2 in Health and Social care and will very soon begin my Level 5. I have become a Dementia Friends Champion and book in Dementia sessions to provide others with knowledge and information. I have also been trained to provide First Aid and Manual Handling Training.
I love the team atmosphere in the office and out in the field, we have a lot of fun. It is nice to get to know both the customers and the carers and if I am doing care calls on the weekend I occasionally meet other carers for breakfast before we start the day. I enjoy my current role, it is a challenge but it keeps me busy and I get the best of both worlds as being a carer will always be a part of me.
I have received so many opportunities to grow and develop myself and my career and I never thought I would be where I am today.