Wherever would we be without George? by Ian Small

Ian SmallThe media often highlights bad care practice both in the Community and Residential care. There are many great carers out there who we never hear about. Probably keeping people alive but getting poor wages and conditions. I suspect there are some bad care agencies. Let me tell you the story of George (not his real name) who was my father’s last carer at home.

Dad suffers from Vascular Dementia, Arthritis, Diabetes and other conditions. He is 89, very frail and confused and now in a nursing home. I cared alone for him for three years until July 2012 when he went into hospital. As his health, and mine, was deteriorating we were awarded two half hour sessions of domestic care every day. Firstly we had Mandy – excellent – nothing was too much for her but she moved to another job in October 2012. Then we got George.

George was himself 67 (older than me) and had a background in care homes previously. Basically, he needed the work as unlike me and Dad did not have the benefit of an occupational pension. From the beginning of November until April when Dad went into care, George visited us twice (and eventually three times) a day to attend to Dad’s basic needs. This was every day, seven days a week including Christmas, New Year and Easter without a single day off.

He never complained about Dad’s incontinence and increasingly erratic and aggressive behaviour. He was able to convince Dad it was time to get up or go to bed as the case may be and get him cleaned and dressed. Not easy as our bathroom was not wheelchair accessible and we had to use a bowl of water in the bedroom.
George never said so in so many words but I know he was frightened of losing his job if he didn’t do what he was told. At 67 it would not have been easy to find another. He was having more and more calls placed on him and asked to cover other carers and, as I said did not have one single day off in all that time. It may seem hard to believe but it’s absolutely true.

If ever there was a case of a worker being undervalued and taken advantage of it was that. There must be tighter regulation of the Management of Care Agencies. Who can really blame carers who give poor service when they are poorly paid, poorly trained and badly managed? Carers, like cleaners have direct impact on the health and wellbeing of those they care for and this should be reflected in the wages they are paid and the support and training they receive. People should not have to endure zero hours contracts and work in constant fear of dismissal.

Eventually Dad went into hospital and then into a Nursing Home. I must say that place seems excellent and has won awards. Then again it is run by a large, well known company and they have the money and a reputation to maintain.

Ian Small can be found via Twitter: @IanSmall4

Care to Share Magazine volume 1 issue 1

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7 thoughts on “Wherever would we be without George? by Ian Small

  1. Hi Ian,

    Thankyou so much for writing this.

    One of the reasons I decided to start Care To Share Magazine in the first place was to try to provide an opportunity to ‘put the other side’. So many people are keen to highlight only the bad in social care and ignore the majority of hard-working and often very poorly treated staff.

    Your article makes a point that George presumably wouldn’t have been able to make for himself. The vulnerability of those on zero-hours contracts is a very effective gag that stops them asserting their rights.

    It’s good to know that things have got better fro both you and your Dad since he entered the nursing home. I hope George will find himself a position with an employer more worthy of his obvious dedication and compassion.

    Thanks for telling your story.

    Cheers,

    Stuart

    • I remember having a zero hours contract as a young man (we called ourselves ‘casual’ staff in those days). All was fine until I disagreed with a manager on something not at all related to work. Instantly the work stopped coming in.

      It annoys me greatly that so many people seem to think these zero hours contracts are on a par with genuine employment. People like George deserve much better.

  2. I identify so strongly with this story and indeed have submitted a similar point on other blog sites. it is so good that Ian has written such a clear and succinct piece and as you say Stuart George deserves much better – much like my own care Philip who comes to see me of a morning most days inthe week.

    • It should be a source of national shame that these stories are so common. The fact that it isn’t should also be a source of national shame.

  3. This is a great article and really highlights the plight of underpaid, undervalued workers in the care sector at the moment. I would just like to highlight though the importance of the distinction between a carer (someone, usually a friend or family member) who cares for someone in an unpaid capacity, and a care-worker (who usually doesn’t know the cared-for person) who is paid for this work.

    I think this is an important distinction for both groups; carers because it is so important that it is recognised by, for example, officials in statutory services, that they are unpaid and care-workers because in this recognition there is the implicit acknowledgement of their acting in a professional capacity.

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