A day in the life of a care worker

Some key facts to consider

  • There are 685,000 home care workers in the U.K.
  • 53% of all home care workers are part time.
  • 60% of home care workers are on zero hour contracts.
  • Up to 219,000 are paid less than the minimum wage.
  • Turnover rate is 21%, twice the national average.
  • 80% of all home care workers are women.

A typical day

This diary excerpt from a home care worker in the Northeast of England highlights the fundamental issues care workers encounter daily:

iStock_000010802947Medium“Well , it was a struggle to get out of bed today, day 15 without a break. I have to work extra to be able to afford essential repairs to my car, without the car I am limited in the amount of work I can do and areas would need to be restricted meaning less money to live on. Yet there is no petrol allowance or consideration to the increase in my insurance. 

My first call today is to assist a lady out of bed; it’s a two-person call as she is very disabled. When I arrived there was an awful smell, I then noticed that her commode had not been emptied the night before and had been placed right next to her bed, how she managed to sleep is a wonder! We have one hour to assist but once she is safely seated I left the other carer to assist with her breakfast and tidying up, as my next call often takes much more time than is allocated. 

Mrs M is fast asleep when I arrive. She likes a lie in but they regularly give her a 9am call so that we are able to fit more people in. I offer her a drink to entice her to get up. This alone can take 20 mins but today I’m lucky, 10 minutes and she is ready to go into bathroom. Mrs M has difficulty with her bowels so I leave her alone to use the toilet. Fifteen minutes later she is ready to get washed. As this is a half hour call I am left with five minutes to get her washed, dressed, meds prompted and make her breakfast. I have reported my concerns but social services say this is an adequate time scale – I disagree! I would never leave a client because their time has elapsed so I carry out all tasks as required – if a little rushed and leave 20 minutes late. 

Luckily my next client lives with a family member but as it is several miles away I arrive almost half an hour late. Today is her trip to the daycentre so her family have given of working in care in the North East of England her breakfast and started to get her dressed. As most of the work was carried out before I arrived I have condensed a 45-minute call into 20 minutes, giving me time to get to my next call a simple medication prompt which is only a 15-minute slot.

Mrs R has dementia and often requires more assistance than is currently in place. I offer her breakfast and a cup of tea and check the house is safe. She has no family nearby and suffers from agoraphobia so the three calls a day she receives are her only social contact. I make an effort to sit and chat while she has her breakfast. Reading through her file I notice that yesterday evening the carer was here for only 10 minutes. 

As we are very short staffed in a different area I have been given some new calls to cover 15 miles away. This trip alone takes 25 minutes. So far today I have spent one hour travelling and it’s only lunchtime. That’s one hour of my day at work that I don’ t get paid for! I am running behind so after preparing a microwave meal and a cup of tea for the service user I run out without having time to have a conversation. It makes me feel so guilty but there is always someone else waiting. 

4121095028_b7366d72f2_oBy the time I arrive at my next call it is 1:45pm and the lady is very unhappy at my time keeping. I apologise and explain how far I have come but she is very angry with me. I can feel my head pounding knowing that I am going to be late for a sit I have to do next. I sit with the lady while her daughter goes shopping but as I am half an hour late she will come back half an hour later, which means I have childcare issues. Again! I phone around and get my 76-year old neighbour to agree to sit with my children so that my husband can go to work. It’s nice to get home and see the kids – they were in bed when I left, but I haven’ t seen my husband at all.”

The full report ‘Key to Care: Report of the Burstow Commission on the Future of the Home Care Workforce’ can be found here.