I have been working as a carer now for 2 years. At time it can be a very enjoyable experience and at times a very frustrating experience. As a domiciliary care I can go door to door and visit different clients in their homes. There I have 15 to 45 minutes to possibly change, feed, or just talk to a client.
The clients have different kinds of illnesses such as Dementia, Parkinson’s, Strokes, old and vulnerable, and also terminal illnesses. Door to door is actual more fun and less stressful because you don’t have to live with the client and only visit briefly so you get to see the best side of them. This can be quite joyous. I can visit one client who has had a stroke. He is unable to move accept maybe touch your hand and he has slurred speech. He may just lay there and listen to the radio but he can still communicate and his wife is on hand to help.
In fact some days when we visit there is sausage rolls or an ice-cream, and you can sit and chat after you have finished your work. The other times you turn up and the client has been taken to hospital and passes away. Other people may have a terminal illness such as the man with multiple sclerosis who every time we have to move him back onto his bed he would just shout ‘just kill me’ That’s all he would talk about. But there was still joy as you moved onto the next client.
The skills required for this job can be taught in one week and maybe that’s why the wages are so low. But there are year-long qualifications that can and should be obtained. The other skills that do not seem to be judged or valued are personality traits like patience or perseverance. It’s sometimes difficult to define a skill if it involves say changing a dirt pad on a disabled person. A basic task no doubt but a task that not many people want to do. Or how about occasionally being shouted at or have something rude said to you while the client is struggling with their mental health? It’s another skill required of the carer to just respond with compassion and kindness.
The carers skills are skills that can’t necessarily be taught over a few months or years it’s just that some carers are natural at doing it like Mother’s are natural at looking after their children. But why is the pay so low?
Why does society pay its carers so little but offers more to a supermarket cashier at 12GBP per hour, or the girl that cleaned my clients house at 15GBP per hour? Door-to-door carers receive say 8.50 per hour but as the work is time based, say 15 minutes at one client, and 45 minutes at the other. They are not paid on travel time getting to clients so have to work a 12 hour day to get 9 hours pay. Or 10 hours to get 7 hours pay. Even if you take live-in care work, it works out at roughly 8.50 an hour for a 10 hour day but you remain in the house for 24 hours 7 days a week. If the client wakes up or gets ill you respond but are not paid for it. If you have a 2 week off/on shift system you can’t earn a decent yearly wage.
So is there no money in the care industry? Is it just a poor industry to work in. Some of the costs to clients can be from 1000GBP a week to 2000k a week depending on the severity of the illness with no extra pay to the carer. A manager of a care home can receive a good wage of 50k! a year plus bonuses! Of course they are a manager and they take on a different responsibility. An account manager can earn 30k! per year plus bonuses and gets to go home every evening and have weekends free unlike the live-in carer.
I read a small piece in The Times recently that mentioned the reporter’s trip to Cuba. Apparently the academic was earning next to nothing. The doctor was earning more but the labourer, wait for it, was PAID THE MOST! Why? Because they were working in the toughest environments, in the scorching heat, and their bodies would wear out quicker. In The West we elevate the academically educated, and quite rightly so, but the manual workers are treated worse than pigs and it isn’t necessary.
I’m not saying we swap wages from manger to carer although that would be nice but how about managers and above take a 10 to 15% pay cut and give their cares a meaningful wage of say even 10GBP per hour?
They would be happier. You should be happier. And the people who need the care the most will get the best help they need from carers who are well-fed and living good lives…
Totally agree, it should be one of the highest paid jobs, and also one of the most choosy. Not just because of the stress and patience needed, but because it is so important. There are always stories appearing in the press of abuse by carers, but as a society we never make the leap in acknowledging that this is because the job is not only low paid, but also because it isn’t treated with the respect and seriousness that it should be.
Thank you for all the work you do.