Gloria has been part of the care team at Bethany Christian Home, Plymouth for over 25 years. We found out how she first got into care and why she loves being part of the family
When I was 15, my mum had major surgery and I helped to care for her afterwards. That was my first experience of care. My first job after school was working in a restaurant (my husband, Neal, says I still make the best omelettes!). When I’d had my two children, I decided to give care work a try and took on a part-time role at a local nursing home. As my children got older, I was looking to work more hours and that’s when I started a part-time position at Bethany. For a while, I worked at both care homes, until I was offered a full-time role at Bethany. I’ve been here ever since.
I find care such a rewarding and satisfying job. You know that you are making a difference to someone’s day. I feel like caring is something that comes very naturally to me. It’s not something you switch off from – I find I’m always thinking about the people I care for, even when I’m at home.
Over the years, I’ve got to know some of the family members at Bethany very well. They have all had such long and fascinating lives. We’ve had teachers live with us, one lady who was a doctor, another lady who had run her own B and B. People may be old, but they are the same on the inside.
There was one lady in particular who I got to know very well. She used to work in the dockyard – she had a real head for numbers and did all of the accounts. My husband and I used to take her out, for example, to a flower show at her church (St Andrew’s) and for an ice-cream at a café on Dartmoor. We really enjoyed spending time with her, hearing all her memories. She also gave us some great tips for places to go – she’d been a keen member of the National Trust. I used to write her suggestions down on a piece of paper. My husband then cut them up and scrunched them into balls and threw them in the air. The one I caught was the place we’d visit!
I’ve been at Bethany so long that every part of it is dear to me. But if I had to pick the place I like best it would be the middle lounge. It’s so nice when everyone gathers there in the morning. Our family members’ faces light up when they see each other. They are so happy to be out of their bedrooms and all together.
One of the hardest times for me was when I had to take seven months off work due to sciatica. I really missed everyone. I couldn’t just sit at home doing nothing, so I made little presents to give to people. For one lady, I made a teddy bear from a towel. She is bed-bound and has her telly in front of her. The teddy is now sitting on top of the telly.
I find handmade crafts can really help to put a smile on people’s faces. I’ve also made little scarves for some of the people with soft toys. One lady had a badger called Four Paws and I made a little red scarf for him. At Christmas, I’ve made reindeer out of flannels and pipe-cleaners. One Easter I made a bonnet for a family member. The bonnet was then given to St Luke’s Hospice and somehow, that bonnet found its way onto an Elmer the elephant statue displayed in the window of a local solicitors’.
During the coronavirus pandemic, I made a ‘bear hug’ craft for everyone in the home to help keep spirits high. It came about after a phone call I had with the daughter of the lady who had the badger. She asked me if I could give her mum a hug as she herself couldn’t be there. It was really hard because I had to say that I couldn’t. However, I then had an idea. Using the towel teddy as inspiration, I drew a picture of a teddy holding a heart, with a little rhyme written on it. I then gave this to the lady as a way of giving her a ‘virtual hug’. She was so pleased with it that I decided to make them for everyone.
The coronavirus pandemic has been a tricky time for all of us. At first, some of the family members were taken aback by seeing us in PPE, so I said, “It’s okay, I’ve got my fancy dress on today.” I want to make them laugh and help them see everything’s okay. Sometimes our family members will tell me they feel sorry for me having to wear all of that and that I must be hot. I say that I’m all right, and that I’m doing it to keep them safe.
One of the things I love most about Bethany is being part of such a supportive team. We all have different strengths and skills and help each other out. I have made some lifelong friends whilst working at Bethany. Some of my colleagues have commented on how I like to do things with finesse, which is sweet. Jackie, my team leader, says she always knows when I have been in and tidied someone’s room. She says it’s been ‘glorified’.
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