In January, I began my work experience in a local care home. Since then for a few hours each week I have been volunteering at the care home, and joining the care assistants with their day to day jobs.
Before this I had never worked in a care home before. I had no clue what to expect, as the grandparents I have left aren’t in care homes, but in residential villages, which means they have a lot more independence that a care home resident. At first I was nervous, as the care home is small and there are not many care assistants and above all things I was scared the residents wouldn’t like me! However that was completely the opposite of the actual truth; the residents were all so lovely and just accepted me as a normal care assistant.
As I am only 17 and not qualified I am not allowed to take part in any personal care activities, however my activities include, helping to make tea, talking to and interacting with the residents, helping them move around the care home safely (giving assistance when getting up and down into chairs) and observing drugs rounds.
So far I have learnt a lot at the care home. Something, really special I learnt was that even in old age, despite many health problems and lists of medications that some of the residents have, it is still possible for happiness to exist. I learnt this through my various conversations with the residents. For example some of the residents like to know about what I do at school, how my friends are and comically the question I get asked most often is if I have a boyfriend or if any boys are catching my eye, which always brings a smile to my face. These may feel like simple things to converse about, but the engagement in the conversation and the smile on the resident’s face when we talk about these things really is special. I have learnt that the elderly find happiness in the simplest of things which is truly inspiring. Consequently, I believe that is an attribute that we all should aspire to have.
Even though I thoroughly enjoy my work, the experience has taught me what it is like to interact with someone that has dementia first hand. It is a harsh truth that dementia can reduce a person’s quality of life, thus it has taught me that awareness must be raised for types of dementia in the elderly. Also, in care homes, it is not uncommon for residents to come and go quickly. It is a sad thing to acknowledge however it is one of the realities of being human, that one day we will eventually die, whether we want to or not. When a member of the elderly is put into a care home, or a hospice, my experience has taught me that it is important to favor increasing the quality of life not the quantity of it. I learnt this through seeing a resident who had severe dementia, diabetes, and was very immobile due to other health problems. When her time came it was sad however the reassurance that I (and I’m sure the family) found was that the resident had a poor quality of life when they were alive, and maybe death was not such a bad thing for them.
Something I learnt about myself on this care home experience is that I love communicating with the residents which could be applied to real life patients. I was really interested in getting insight into the daily struggles and stresses that some people face with dementia, and the resilient approach to life, which was displayed by some of the residents. This has further inspired my pursuit of a medical career.
I absolutely love working in the residential home, and I am finding it so valuable, and it spurs on my inspiration and dream to study medicine.