One year on: How Good Oaks Home Care carers have looked after themselves and others during Covid-19
With the first anniversary of Lockdown one approaching on March 23, 2020, the Good Oaks Home Care team have been looking back over the past year.
The world has changed a lot since last March, but our carers commitment to providing the best possible care has never wavered. The teams have worked hard to protect themselves and others through what has been a challenging time for the whole UK. Here we talk to two carers; Phillippa and Ellie, about their experiences of care over the past year and why caring is such a special and important role.
Phillippa Stephenson, 34, from Hamworthy, changed career to become a carer during the Pandemic, after she found business with her self-employed dog walking business came to a halt. Phillippa had always been used to care work, having helped look after her sister who has special needs from a young age.
It was her god mother who encouraged her to go into care as a career, but Phillippa said she was determined that animals were her career and so did a degree in animal management. She said becoming a carer has been a ‘life-changing experience’ and said she won’t be going back to animal care, as she plans to continue in care and take further qualifications.
She said she was a little nervous to start because she knew she had to keep everyone safe, but that the training she received at Good Oaks and shadowing shifts made her feel reassured. Philippa said: “I didn’t go into it thinking it would be easy, I thought what will my clients think of me, will they be worried about me coming into their home and looking after them? But as soon as I started, I found it easy, it was almost as if I was born for care, it came so naturally.”
Good Oaks Home Care has its own COVID-19 secure procedures that go above and beyond the recommendations and all staff get training and PPE.
She said: “I’m not just trying to safeguard the elderly or vulnerable we care for; I’m trying to safeguard myself and my family. My parents are in their 70s and my sister is vulnerable. I carry two bottles of Dettol spay, for surfaces and clothes. I spray the car; I mist the shopping before it goes into the car. I do everything I can to keep everyone safe. We have full PPE, masks, gloves, visors, aprons – and we have to change these frequently.”
She added: “I can get through two packs of gloves (200 gloves approx.) in seven days, depending on the clients. You have to change them when you come in, then wash your hands, then if you are helping someone get dressed or applying topical creams, you have to change gloves between each cream and wash hands, then change them between different tasks like cooking breakfast. It all about safety and making sure everyone is protected and feels reassured. I use a lot of hand cream in the evenings as your hands get really dry and sore from all the changes of gloves.”
Phillippa said that she really enjoyed the training at good Oaks Home Care and had done several training courses. She said: “There are so many courses available for you to do and it makes you feel so confident – things like medication and prescriptions, dementia care, health and safety, hygiene, first aid. The training is really informative - and there’s the ability to progress at Good Oaks. You can work through for your qualifications. It’s been a complete career change for me, I can’t see myself doing anything else. Working in care changes your life and your perceptions and changes the lives of the people you are caring for.”
For anyone thinking about a career in care with Good Oaks Home Care, especially in the Pandemic, Phillippa said to go for it, she said: “Don’t doubt yourself – you will get support and help – just do it, better yourself, take that leap. If I hadn’t taken the leap, I would be stuck in a rut. It’s given me a boost and remember, it’s normal to have worries and doubts when taking on a new job, everybody feels that, regardless of what sector you are in. You just have to remember to treat everybody you are going to see as if they are your mum or your family and think how you would like them to be looked after.”
Phillippa said that the Covid-19 crisis had affected everyone’s mental health, and everyone had up and down days, herself included, but that she always made an effort to raise a smile with her clients and leave them feeling happier than she arrived. She said: “I always say ‘Positive Pippa’s here!’ Nine times out of ten when you leave, the client is happy and smiling. The Pandemic will be over soon and it’s letting everyone know we are in it together and just trying to help. That can be through listening or doing a jigsaw puzzle together or a word search, or even a pamper session and doing their nails, or going for a walk together or helping them chat to their family through technology. It’s changed my life completely.”
She added that she had even been able to help one client to get their Covid-19 vaccine, Phillippa said: “It’s knowing you have made someone feel safe and protected and that you care. It’s definitely made me a better person – it’s given me so much, I absolutely love it, it makes me feel very proud to help people.”
Ellie Pflanz, 23, lives in Bournemouth. Like Phillippa, she also changed career to be a carer during the Covid-19 Pandemic. Having worked in care before working as a hairdresser for years, Ellie was furloughed during 2020. She said: “I could have stayed on furlough but I kept thinking about all the people that needed care and how I could help someone. I had previously worked in a residential home and I absolutely loved it, so I thought why not go for it!”
“A friend of mine previously worked for Good Oaks and has now gone on to do her nursing qualifications, she had recommended them as a lovely company to work for and told me that they were a slightly smaller care company, which made it much more personal.”
Ellie said that there are two shifts in the day, early from 7am to 2pm, which normally involves helping people get up, get washed and dressed and helping to make breakfast and clean, and a shift from 4pm to 10pm, where she helps people do tasks, make dinner and help them to bed. She said the carers also helped clients with medications, did their shopping and took them for drives or walks. Ellie said the office team wee very helpful and always on hand if they needed anything or had any questions. She said they always kept them well supplied with PPE, which they collected from the office and they got through lots of nappy bags, making sure all PPE was disposed of carefully in bins outside when she left.
Ellie said: “I’ve felt very safe when it comes to coronavirus as Good oaks have strict PPE procedures that mean the risks are much lower for us when out in the community.
Ellie said she found the job really rewarding and really enjoyed the companionship side, where she would do puzzles or Sudoku with clients or look through old photos with them and about their lives. She said: “The most rewarding part for me is knowing you have made a big difference to someone’s day and put a smile on their face.”
She said that if others were considering a career in care to go for it. Ellie said: “Definitely do it. I think unfortunately some people are put off of care work due to certain aspects of the job, but it’s the most rewarding and positive job I’ve ever had.
“I’ll possibly carry on doing some hairdressing when things open back up, alongside care work as I love to be creative, but I have decided I would like to progress in the care industry and see where it can take me. I’m excited for the future and feel much happier since changing career.”
If you are thinking about a career in care with Good Oaks, please visit our dedicated careers page here. At Good Oaks we pride ourselves on supporting and developing the caring people that work for us.
Good Oaks Home Care offers a range of flexible and guaranteed hours contract options, paid induction training, shadowing and supervision, sector-leading pay rates, paid mileage between clients, a market-leading Employment Package, clear career progression opportunities, excellent training, carer support and mentoring, and a friendly and helpful team to help you provide the best quality care.