CARE HOME DIARIES PART 2 ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’

If you missed Part 1 it’s here. But in the second part of this short series, I get a job at Hill View House just as I start to think of social care as the new slave trade. Well, I still do. A bit.

No, of course Hill View House isn’t the real name of where I work, and we won’t be identifying any staff or residents by name or detail. But let’s just say I liked Hill View as soon as I walked in for my interview. For starters, it smelt nice. As anyone ‘in the know’ will tell you, this is usually a good sign for a care home. If you need nuclear-grade breathing assistance just to get through the front door of a care home, chances are it’ll be more than just your nose telling a bad story for the rest of the place.

I’d wanted to get back to some ‘hands on’ work but had let my my registration lapse some years ago and couldn’t go back as a qualified nurse.  So I’d been to visit a local agency  shortly before interview at Hill View. Their office reminded me of the shabby old car hire place my Dad used to run in the 70’s. Dust hung in the few shards of light that lit the shelves full of old ring-binder files with labels like ‘Helf & safety 2010’. A few wan faces looked up from their PC monitors to gaze at me for a moment. “Male, middle-aged. Looks a bit weird for this sort of thing” they probably thought before staring back at their spreadsheets.

I quickly learnt from the chap I’d agreed to meet that there “wasn’t much work for agency staff any more.” The sales pitch didn’t get any better. I would have to pay for a uniform. I’d have to pay for a CRB check. I’d have to attend 5 days of mandatory training, which is good of course. Apart from the fact I wouldn’t get paid to attend. And I’d have to do 2 ‘shadow’ shifts with another agency worker before flying solo. Yep, you’ve guessed it. In my own time. It was a very quick chat. I didn’t quite say ‘You’re [bleep] having a [bleep] laugh’ but let’s just say the agency manager wasn’t too unhappy to see me darting off into the fresh air and daylight muttering something about modern day slave labour and the taking of piss.

So back to Hill View. It was immediately clear that Hill View was a home for people with varying degrees of dementia. The more mobile residents looked bustling and alert, free of the slump and dead eyes of the Haloperidol fugue* I’d seen elsewhere. Other residents were clearly long immobile, coming toward the end of the long, terminal journey of Alzheimer’s or one of the other dementias. While I waited I could see staff engaging with people who were, in all probability, beyond comprehension of speech and certainly incapable of chatting about the weather. But carers chatted away nonetheless, knowing full well that this would only ever be a one-way conversation. With six months of these conversations under my belt I now know how difficult this is. I didn’t back then then, but it another thing I liked about Hill View.

Fortunately they seemed to like me too. With one brief but successful interview I was a relief care assistant, and with 5 days induction training and a CRB certificate to my name I was ready for my first shift and that dark Saturday morning with Ted and a very experienced care assistant called Hannah. 

Next week: CARE HOME DIARIES PART 3: ‘Pictures on a Bedroom Wall’ where dementia makes my jaw drop

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