Emma Lindeley, a Support Worker at the Wilberforce Trust
She helps people with sensory loss and other life-changing disabilities to live their best lives and be as independent as possible.
“I’m studying for a psychology degree but I wanted to do something to help with the COVID-19 situation. After not hearing back from the NHS volunteer scheme I went for the Wilberforce Trust role, and within a few weeks I was working 16-20 hours a week.
It’s been a huge learning curve as I had no experience in the field. At first I was daunted by tasks like personal care but we get lots of training – I have about 20 certificates now in everything from safeguarding to mental health. All you need to start with is empathy, patience and a gentle and caring nature.
We provide supported housing and I started in a house with fairly independent residents where my job was helping them do their washing or make a cup of tea. I now work in a house where the residents need 24-hour, one-on-one care – we bathe them , feed them, do everything for them.
A typical day...
… starts with a handover before I check that the resident’s medication is up to date, when their last drink and meal was, when their pad was changed, if they need a bath. I make sure their laundry is up-to-date, that their room is clean and they are comfortable. It’s quite a responsible job and you need to be able to monitor things like when they are thirsty if they can’t communicate.
But we don’t just care for the residents, we get to know all their likes and dislikes. Though we often don’t know how much they can understand, we never presume and act as if it’s everything.
The hardest thing...
..is not being able to do things because of COVID-19 – although I’ve never known the job without it. the residents don’t really understand about the virus and I wonder if the masks are daunting for those who can see.
The best bit...
…how rewarding the job is and the sense of teamwork. It feels like an extended family and we support each other through the job and anything that’s going on outside it.
I’m quite an arty person and I enjoy bringing that to the job. I found a basket weaving kit that the tenants really enjoyed because they felt good producing something themselves. I also did cheese making with a tenant and made bunting with another for his 50th birthday.
…that small things make a big difference. I once took a packet of crayons in for a resident who loves crayons and she was so pleased, the man with the 50th birthday rang me recently to tell me the bunting is still up in his room. I can’t describe the feeling you get but it’s something money can’t buy.
The job has built my confidence, helped me through the pandemic and has changed my outlook on life. I want to continue working with people who have disabilities, perhaps in art therapy. For now I’m looking forward to working on Christmas Day, I think it will be a joyous occasion!
This is a feature from Issue 3 of Charitable Traveller. Click to read more from this issue.