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A caring vocation

Posted by cornwallcare on September 30, 2019

When Jean Harding arrives home at the end of a working day, she knows she’s made a difference. A warm, naturally smiley person, she believes caring is a vocation.

Jean started her career as a carer with Cornwall Care nine years ago. Completely new to the job after many years working in the manufacturing industry, she wasn’t sure how well she would take to an occupation totally different to the one she had before. Thorough training from the beginning, however, convinced her she’d made the right choice.

“There aren’t many jobs that reward you with so much genuine gratitude,” says Jean. “Becoming an important part of a client’s life and supporting them is a privilege. You do get attached to them – and that can pull at your heart strings - but as a team we’re there for each other.”

Now an area manager, Jean supervises homecare for about 60 clients in Camborne, Redruth, Truro and Falmouth. The service runs from 7am to 10pm, 7 days a week, and those being supported range in age, conditions and abilities.

“When I first started, I looked after a young lady in her twenties who couldn’t do anything for herself and needed oxygen 24 hours a day. I remember she had beautiful thick hair and loved having showers. What will always stay with me, though, is how much she could communicate with her eyes. Her parents had other children and when they were having a difficult day, she would let me know just by the way she looked.”

Every client is an individual, with their own needs and story.

“One of our ladies is a woman in her mid-forties who had suffered a stroke and hadn’t been outside her house for twelve months. We take her out shopping, accompany her on surgery visits and go out for a coffee with her. She calls us Mary Poppins because her life has been transformed.”

Carers visit as many times a day as necessary, with each call generally lasting about 30 to 45 minutes, depending on what needs to be done. The first visit might involve showering, getting breakfast and ensuring medication is taken. Subsequent ones may include doing some housework, managing food and drink intake and encouraging rehabilitation.

Terminally-ill patients who want to spend their last days at home are among the many people who benefit from the Cornwall Care service.

“We get to know our clients very well, almost as if they were our family, and it’s hard for us when they pass away,” says Jean, the emotion behind those words all too apparent. “That’s why most of us appreciate being offered the chance to go to the funeral. It represents closure.”

Cornwall Care is the biggest organisation of its kind in the county, pays its carers more than the living wage and considers supporting staff as well as clients a key priority.

“Most of us love what we do but the nature of our work does mean it can be emotionally draining,” says Jean. “An important part of my role as a manager is to make sure help, advice and a listening ear are available to every member of the team when they need it.

“There are good career opportunities in Cornwall Care. I followed the management route, but others go into nursing, administration or become trainers.”

Spending an hour in Jean’s company was honestly inspiring. A grandmother of five, she comes across as exactly the sort of person you’d want helping when illness, age or disability make life at home a little more complicated.

Caring is such an important profession – one that fully deserves our respect and gratitude.