Domiciliary Care: what it’s really like?

My Name is Lucy and I currently work as a Policy Officer for the National Commissioning Board, (NCB). The NCB is made up of representatives from Health & Social Care organisations in Wales. The aim of the board is to support and promote the integration of Health & Social Care through commissioning, policy and practice. But how I got here is another story!

I started in care at 18 and fell quite accidentally into my career. I soon discovered after being placed in adult residential care on work experience placement that it was where I wanted to be. I had no idea before this of how fulfilling it can be to care for others. I have worked in a few caring roles, but I have to say domiciliary care is where I love to be. My sister and I ran a successful, small family-owned care agency for 14 years and it has to be the best experience I have had in my career so far. It is also the hardest thing I have ever done and possibly the most stressful!

Domiciliary care is a world on its own. It never stops, constantly changes and no two days are ever the same. There are good days, bad days, and days where you want to go and work somewhere else!  But then you go and provide hands-on care, or support care staff, and they remind you why you do what you do. If I had to tell you one good and one bad story, I would struggle. There have been tough times, and days where I have cried and not slept with worry over service users, staff, money, rotas, adverse weather, cars breaking down, staff shortages, illness and, most upsettingly, the loss of service users. But the flip side of that is the best feeling in the world as far as I am concerned – knowing that you have helped someone and supported them when they really needed you and all in the comfort of their own home is an honour. Personal sacrifices like getting out of bed at 6am on Christmas morning,  tiptoeing through the house to not wake your sleeping family, and braving the freezing cold is all worth it when you see the beaming smile of the person you’re caring for when you wake them up with a flashing Santa hat or tinsel in your hair! Supporting staff to be the best they can be, meeting someone at interview who is new to care and seeing the potential in them, and watching them develop their skills, knowledge and careers is such a great feeling. As a young carer, and throughout my career, I have had mentors and experienced staff who really took me under their wing and taught me so much. I would not be who I am today without them and will always be grateful.

I feel that domiciliary care does not always receive the credit it deserves. The staff who work in this industry are truly incredible and I was always astounded at the strength and resilience of our team, even in the face of adversity. The Beast from the East in early 2018 was a shining example of that. Care staff willingly walked miles in snow and ice to deliver care to the most vulnerable people, not because they had to but because they care and will never stop caring. I was told once that if you cut a true carer in half, the word ‘care’ would be running through them like a stick of rock! Care is a vocation and not “just a job”. The challenges that face domiciliary care are many: funding for social care; managing travel; and ‘time and task’ expectations, just to name a few.

It is inspiring to see the work the NCB is doing with regards measuring the true costs of care, supporting the development of new approaches to commissioning and delivery, exploring models of complex care, and raising the profile of care staff and the vital role that they play in our health & social care system. These staff deal with incredibly complex, demanding, and exhausting (both physically and emotionally) situations daily and keep smiling all the way through. They are the ones who hold your loved ones’ hands when they are happy, sad, scared, angry, frustrated, or even dying.

I miss providing care hugely and am very proud to be a care worker. I hope that in some way my new role at the NCB can help to support and champion the industry I hold so dearly.

The Board are holding an event to celebrate the work of the Domiciliary care sector on Wednesday 24th March 2021. We aim for this to be an event where providers and commissioners can come together, share good practice and gain knowledge about new developments within the field such as outcomes focussed commissioning, safe and effective medication administration and fair wages for staff in the sector just to name a few.

The NCB’s work is much broader than domiciliary care alone. If you would like to know more about the National Commissioning Board, or you would like more information about the event in March, please contact us. Our website has lots of information about the work we are currently doing and what we have planned for the future.

To all who work in this amazing industry – know how incredible you are and keep doing what you do so well.