Fulfilled living in later life

Monday 15th February 2021

Life in our homes... Sylwia, Senior Carer, at Emmaus House

Sylwia is a Senior Carer and Care Team Leader at Emmaus House, our home in Harrogate. She told us all about her passion for care

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Tell us a bit about your background…
I come from a small village in western Poland called Ligota, 50km from the city of Wroclaw. After completing my degree in Public Administration at Koszalin University, I was looking to travel. At the time, there was a gap in the care industry and the UK was looking abroad for staff. I started as a care assistant at a care home in Leeds for Jewish people. I’ve now been working in the care sector for 15 or 16 years.

What was it like moving to a new country?

I experienced a lot of differences and surprises. For one thing, the seasons in the UK are very different. Normally in Poland Spring is when things are getting warmer, but I discovered April in England can be cold and rainy. I had very basic English when I arrived and also found the Yorkshire accent hard to understand. But the residents in the home really helped me. There was one fantastic lady who encouraged me to read Harry Potter. I then had to explain to her in English what I had been reading about. They were such lovely people who made a big difference in my life.

What brought you to Emmaus House?
As a person, I’m quite driven. I like to have a goal to work towards. While I was in Leeds, I completed my NVQ Level 2 in Care, then my Level 3 as well. I was looking for a new challenge, something where I could be involved in decision-making. Emmaus House and Pilgrims’ Friend Society gave me that opportunity. I liked the fact that I am encouraged to be fully involved in the life of the home, that I can bring ideas and help develop the way things are done.

What kinds of things does your role involve?
As a Senior Carer and a Care Team Leader, I do all sorts, from writing care plans for new family members to organising medications and liaising with professionals. If a manager is off-sick, I can deputise. If I have an idea for something, I work closely with other members of the team to make it possible.

What do you enjoy about your job?

What I love most is making a difference, seeing people change under your care. Someone might come to us lonely and withdrawn. As they settle, you see a change in them, they become brighter and more content. It’s the little things that can make a difference to someone, like putting some music on, offering them a cup of tea, bringing them a newspaper. These are all things we think about at Emmaus. I really like Pilgrims’ Friend Society’s approach to care, The Way We Care. It means we really get to know the people who live with us, developing a deep understanding of those who are struggling with dementia.

I really cherish the bond I develop with our residents, or family members as we call them. There is one lady. Maggie, who is always so positive about everything. Whenever you’re under the weather, she’ll compliment you on your dress or hair. I have never heard her say anything bad about anyone. Sometimes she’ll come and sit in the office by the radiator and we’ll have coffee and cake together. She’ll sit there singing and really brighten up everyone’s day.

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At Christmas-time, you created some cards for residents to send to their loved ones. Tell us more…
I thought it would be nice to do something special for our residents and their loved ones. Many of them were missing regular visits and Christmas especially can be a difficult time to be apart. My best friend has a photography business and often uses backdrops in her shoots. I wondered if we could do something similar at Emmaus. Sharon our Administrator and Bob our Maintenance Officer helped make my idea come to life. We got hold of a big printed mural with a Christmassy fireplace scene. Our residents then came to sit in a cosy armchair to have their photo taken. Some of them dressed up and had their hair done – we made it a bit fun. I then printed out the photos as Christmas cards. The residents really enjoyed writing and sending them. The feedback I had from relatives when I sent them out really made my day! They were so pleased to see their loved ones looking happy, especially at Christmastime.

One gentleman, Harold, stands out. His wife and daughter had not been able to see him for a long time, and sadly just before Christmas he died. His family were so grateful to have such a lovely photo to remember him by, with him looking so happy.

What role does faith have for you?
Faith is important to me, which is one of things that drew me to Emmaus House. I am Catholic by background and my children have grown up with an appreciation that there is a spiritual world around us all the time. I like working for an organisation that is nothing about the profit and all about the person – money is not the most important thing.

Tell us a bit about your life outside of work
My husband and I have two boys, Wiktor who is 12 and Oliver who is 6. We still live in Leeds and have got to know our neighbours well. They always remember the children’s birthdays and give them little presents. They are very good to us in lots of ways. For example, on one occasion I had my washing out on the line and then went shopping. It started to rain heavily and so one of my neighbours took it down and brought it in for me, which was kind. It is nice being part of such a caring community.

At the weekend, we like to explore the local area as a family. We love visiting the seaside, especially Whitby. It is so beautiful. We are very lucky to have the Yorkshire Dales on our doorstep too. In lockdown, we’ve been staying close to home like everyone. We’ll go for a walk or a cycle in Roundhay Park. There’s a long walk you can do around the lake.

To relax, I like to bury my head in a book. Harry Potter will always have a special place in my heart as it was the first book I read in English!

Could you or a loved one make Emmaus House your new home? Find out more.