Midlife career change helps carer find her dream job
It may not be easy, but re-training later in life could lead to a happier future
04 March 2015
When Helen Potts’ mum became ill, she became torn.
Her mum needed much more support than her office job allowed. So she took a leap of faith handed in her notice.
Can’t go back
She looked after her mum as a full-time carer for two years until she passed away.
‘At that point, I thought, what am I going to do?’ said 57 year-old Helen. ‘I just couldn’t go back to an office.’
She had enjoyed providing care, but didn’t have any formal qualifications beyond her own experience.
That’s when she found a company called Home Instead Senior Care, who said they would provide training for the right candidate.
Offering training is a great way to find passionate people, Helen’s manager Judith said.
‘We’re more interested in the person and their attitudes towards the type of work we provide, rather than qualifications,’ she added.
So Helen opted to take part in Home Instead’s specialised Dementia Training, accredited by City & Guilds Kineo.
Having armed herself with the knowledge of how to cope with a person living with dementia, she continued her training and completed the Level 3 QCF in Health and Social Care.
And those new skills are getting her noticed; Helen was nominated for the Dementia Carer Award at the Regional Great British Care Awards.
She has also been invited to represent not only her Darlington Office, but also the UK's North East region at the National Care Awards in Birmingham this June.
It’s hard for her to believe how far she’s come in just three years.
On the job
Helen loves the diversity of her job. Each client is completely different, and she has to tailor her service to fit their needs.
Some people need home help services, others require assistance with food shopping or enjoy window shopping and having a chat.
One of her clients loves fashion, so she always brings new fashion magazines when she visits.
‘If I buy anything new, such as a handbag or pair of shoes, I will take them with me and we can have a lovely conversation about these,’ she said. ‘I link what I do with her personal preferences, like discussing fashion changes over the years.’
‘It’s a wonderful job and I’m meeting so many interesting people. I feel like I’m the one learning, even though I’m supporting all these people.’
The right fit
Things don’t always go smoothly, though.
She’ll never forget when her first client said to her bluntly, ‘Just so you know, I’m capable of putting on my own dressing gown.’
As Helen says, most clients are used to being independent and it’s hard for them to acknowledge they can no longer do certain things.
‘I always ask if I can do something, rather than just doing it. If you really want to help them, you have to gain trust.’
She said the quickest way to gain that trust is through shared interests.
That’s why she was matched up with that first client; both of them shared a love of embroidery.
‘We had endless conversations about what kind of cloths and colours we used to embroider,’ Helen remembered. ‘She was quite cool towards me on my first visit, but became really enthusiastic when she knew of my hobby and we could talk about something she cared about.’
The right support
Pairing up clients with the right carers is just one thing that makes Home Instead a great employer, according to Helen. That allows her to form relationships and subsequently identify any changes in the health or demeanour of her clients.
‘We get really good support in every aspect of our jobs,’ she said.
‘If we have any doubts, we are in a good position because we have access to our managers 24/7, which is such a comforting feeling.’
It’s important to have the ongoing support, Helen explained.
‘The team all care about each other and their clients so if we have an emergency situation, we know we can always rely on each other to ensure a great outcome.’
‘It’s imperative to deal with changes in health or behaviour a calm way, but it’s reassuring to know you can call your manager if you need support.’
It wasn’t an easy choice to leave her office job and become a carer, but Helen’s happy to have found her dream career.
‘It’s so rewarding to provide the same level of care for others that I gave to my mum,’ she said.
‘Because I take care of the day-to-day tasks, it means that families are able to spend more quality time together. That’s a wonderful gift to have when approaching your twilight years.’