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Monday, October 21, 2013

Working In Care- Part 8

You know, I had really very few problems with the people I actually cared for. I enjoyed the work. It did give me a sense of actually doing something worthwhile. So why were the problems that I did encounter have to do with members of staff? I think it might be that some people are under the impression that care work is easy. It might be if you are working with the elderly and infirm, but when it is those with learning disabilities and especially challenging behaviours it can be quite difficult and to be honest it takes a special sort of person to deal with the challenges that do reveal themselves. As a temp you are expected to fit in almost from the first time you appear at a home or unit. I think some of the permanent staff can be somewhat off-hand, for whatever reason, maybe because you are on a different hourly rate or come from an agency. It takes a while to build up any sort of relationship with the residents/client group, and in some cases you need to read the careplans that have been written for the residents before you can go 'onto the floor' and actually do any caring.

I worked for another agency in Bedford, whose name I shall not reveal here as it might be traced back to those members of staff involved.

I did shifts at a home in Bedford and another in Biggleswade. Generally the work there was fairly straightforward, but to get to Biggleswade did mean quite a bit of driving as it's a good 15 miles out to Biggleswade from Bedford. I used to have to take a minibus load of the residents to Bedford and deliver them to a number of places in and around Bedford, Kempston and out to Sharnbrook, a village to the north of the town and just off the A6. The first time I went I was taken by another member of staff, to show me the way. She turned out to be quite an awkward person, and constantly criticized  my driving and other things, much to my annoyance. One particular resident who had autism and needed particularly special care went out to a unit in Sharnbrook. As I was coming out I had to have help reversing into the road, mostly because I had not got used to driving the minibus. This woman, the member of staff who had come to help me find the various places, jumped down my throat and told me I didn't need help. Not a very helpful person at all. She was generally not very pleasant to work with and at one point during one shift which she worked with me on was annoyed and somewhat rude that I didn't want to  cover a another shift she was scheduled to work because she wanted to be somewhere else that particular day. I must say I was glad that I didn't do too many shifts in that house with her.

One afternoon I had to pick up some of the residents from Barnfield College in Queen's Park in Bedford. This day seemed to go as easily as any and I was just driving away from the college when I was about to turn out into Bromham Road and towards the centre of Bedford on the way back to Biggleswade. That turning is quite difficult as you can't see very clearly in both directions to make sure it is safe before making the turn as it is a very busy road at the best of times. As I bought the vehicle to a halt and applied the hand-break to make sure it was stationary and then was about to release the clutch in order to make the turn out, I couldn't get the vehicle into gear. I shifted the gear-shift several times, but with no success and then the vehicle came to a halt. It is quite a stressful operation on your own, but with a bus-load of people with varying degrees of learning disability, even more so on this occasion. I tried a few times more, but still no success. I then realised that I wasn't going to get the vehicle out of this situation and certainly not going to get the residents home safely. I thought that I was going to have to get assistance from some form of breakdown service. I eventually remembered that the was serviced by a company in Kempston and managed to ring the company and they eventually sent out a breakdown truck to pick us up and take us to their workshop to have the vehicle repaired. They had to put it on a low-loader and it took some persuasion to get all the residents into the bus (along with another agency staff member, I seem to recall.) We eventually got to the workshop and the vehicle unloaded.) Then there was the problem of us all getting back to Kempston. I called a taxi firm and the whole groups of residents, myself and the agency staff member were transported back to the house in Biggleswade. 

The next day I was again on shift at the Biggleswade house and I was given an ear-bashing by the manageress who told me that I'd taken the bus to the wrong place to have it repaired. As it turned out there wasn't much wrong with it and she told me I'd have to get a bus to Kempston and bring the vehicle back. No 'thank you' or 'you used your initiative' or 'you looked after the client-group.' Just one load of negatives which didn't exactly endear me to the woman, as you can imagine. Yes, I know I might have taken the bus to the wrong place, but how was I to know where the CORRECT place was, as I wasn't a permanent member of staff? My main concern was the safety of the residents, which I think I managed to maintain throughout the whole ordeal.
Several of the residents in that house could be quite challenging in various ways. I mentioned the young lady who I took to the centre in Sharnbrook. She was autistic and when she got up in the morning had a routine which you didn't dare to disrupt. She could be quite violent if provoked, so when she was taken anywhere in the bus it was advisable for her to be at the back and as far as possible away from the driver. In some cases she had to be transported with another carer to act as escort, but generally she was very good and I didn't see too many incidents.

Another male resident could also become quite challenging, which I saw one particular evening when I was on shift. We were on the point of serving up their evening meal and I was sent to his room to tell him that the meal was ready. I knocked on the door and I was then confronted by his with waving fists. I moved rapidly out of the way, as you can imagine, and he proceeded to run after me down stairs. I had to spend the rest of the shift hiding from him in the room provided for sleep-in staff and had to go home without him being aware, but the next time I was on shift with the manager of the house I was berated by her for not being on the 'floor' of the home for the remainder of the shift, but I wasn't putting myself in danger from being injured by this gentleman, regardless of what this woman had to say on the matter. How would she like to be injured, possibly permanently, but not keeping out of his way? I don't think she actually did any caring of any sort and managed to stay in her nice warm and comfortable office, cleverly avoiding the actual realities of caring for people with learning disabilities.
Another incident is brought to mind in the run-up to Christmas around 2003 or so. I was scheduled again for a shift at the Biggleswade house at a time when some of the residents were involved in a show that they had been rehearsing during some drama classes they had gone to at Oakley village hall. Several new members of staff had been taken on, including a young man who was supposed to be a senior support staff member. I was scheduled to drive the mini bus once more and this young man was supposed to be escort, as there was the distinct possibility of some sort of 'incident' between the residents during the journey across Bedfordshire. This young man arrived at the beginning of the shift and I was introduced to me, but on one exchange we had he was quite rude to me. There was something distinctly no quite right about him, his speech was slurred and he had a look of not being exactly engaged. He then sat down on an armchair at a bottle of vodka fell out from under his coat and onto the floor and rolled across the carpet. It was quite obvious that he was very much drunk, from drinking the aforementioned vodka. It was then that the rest of the staff and myself decided that he wasn't going to be a suitable escort on the journey to Oakley village hall. I think it may have been in his contract, as with most companies not just those in care, that the drinking of alcohol on duty was a sackable offence. The shift-leader decided that the situation was so serious that the area manager should be informed so a phone call was made  and very quickly this young man appeared in the house and to keep the Christmas show from being put into total disarray without the attendance of the Biggleswade house residents, he came with us on the minibus as escort, but looking back I don't recall what happened to the drunk support worker, whether he came with us to Oakley, but I know he didn't survive as an employee at that home as he was sacked immediately. You need to have all your wits about you in care and the thought of him not being in complete control during that journey was not something I would wish to go through.
On arriving back in Biggleswade my problems didn't end, because where I had managed to park my car, in a carpark which belonged to some sort of hall, I soon discovered that I was blocked in. No amount of enquiries would discover whose cars were responsible, so I had to return to the house and spent the night sleeping on he lounge floor. Things were made worse still because it was a very stormy night with howling wind and rain pouring down. By the morning the weather had improved and I was able to drive home because the cars that had blocked mine in had gone, thank goodness. But the last day had certainly been an eventful one, not exactly helped by not being able to drive home as planned at the end of the shift.
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