84 years and still going strong

84 years and still going strong

After a combined 84 years working in the care sector, Margaret Lovell and Margaret Trengove can legitimately claim to have considerable experience of looking after vulnerable people.

Both women are dementia specialist tutors here at Cornwall Care, passing on their knowledge to colleagues in their own kind and very understanding way.

As well as job sharing, the two have become great friends over the huge amount of time spent in the same organisation – 45 years in Margaret Lovell’s case and 39 in Margaret Trengove’s.

Both are qualified social workers, clearly love their jobs and agree that care has become much more complex as people live longer. They are passionate, too, about giving their industry the respect, resources and recognition required.

“Carers have to have a range of very important skills, yet they are paid a minimum wage,” said Margaret Trengove, who lives in Praze-an-Beeble. “Every individual in their care is a unique person who still wants to have fun and enjoy themselves. Few people choose to end up as a care home resident so it’s vital to ensure that it’s a happy, comfortable experience. That demands empathy, patience and excellent communication skills, as well as practical, highly skilled know-how in terms of health and well-being.”

Margaret Lovell, who lives in St Mabyn, agrees.

“There needs to be much more joined-up thinking when it comes to health and social care,” she said. “The subject is a political football, with a dividing line between the two that has become a big stumbling block. The question always seems to be ‘who’ll pay?’ instead of ‘what can we do to make it as good as it possibly can be?’”

Margaret Lovell was 18 when she joined St Breock, our care home in Wadebridge, as a domestic in 1976. She’d been working in a private home at St Teath before that.

“St Breock was run by the council then and the pay rate was much better,” she said. “I was interviewed by the matron and being accepted was a very good day. We didn’t use mops so floors had to be scrubbed on our hands and knees, but I stayed for the next five years and became a care assistant.”

A subsequent move to another council-run home in Looe and a different shift pattern followed.

“Every third weekend I worked continuously from 2pm on a Friday to Monday morning. They were long hours, but the warm feeling I got in my heart knowing I was making a difference made it all worthwhile.”

Similarly motivated to do something worthwhile, Margaret Trengove enrolled on a Cornwall College social care course when she finished school.

“I had to do six-week placements with children, people who had learning disabilities and older people,” she said. “I didn’t enjoy either of the first two settings but loved my time at Blackwood, our home in Camborne. That led to a three-year job as a care assistant there. When I was 20, I moved on to The Green in Redruth where my responsibilities included taking charge of Friday admissions. That’s always a busy day so my learning curve was steep!”

Cornwall Council transferred the running of its sixteen residential care homes to Cornwall Care in 1996. Following their own career pathways with the charity, both Margarets had a specific interest in dementia care and ended up working together in the learning and development team.

“It’s amazing what the organisation has achieved over the last 25 years,” said Margaret Lovell. “There’s a real investment in staff welfare and continuing professional development which helps create a strong internal bond. I’m personally very proud to work alongside such an amazing group of people.”

What has kept them in the care sector all these years?

“Seeing someone smile,” said Margaret Trengove without hesitation. “There’s no greater reward than that.”