A trio of staff members at an award-winning Norfolk home care company are celebrating racking up 45 years of service between them.
Doreen Taylor, Anne Brady and Caroline Simpson have each worked 15 years at Extra Hands at their Horsham St Faith office, near Norwich.
Anne, who is 64 and a grandmother of two, looks after her own mother when she is not on her daily rounds seeing up to 12 people.
She said she was not even aware of her own personal milestone until it was pointed out to her, but the ability to help care users maintain their independence was what kept her going.
“You have to be very caring and must want to care for people and help them keep independent as well. You must also be patient, but the job is very rewarding,” she said.
“What really helps us keep going is that the carers are cared for, too. We’re well trained and respected. I’ve always found that if ever there’s a problem, I can go to anyone in the company and talk.”
Prior to joining Extra Hands, Anne had a varied career path from working at the tax office to a book company, but she said working in the care sector has opened up another side to her character.
“I think the skills were always there inside me, but this job has brought them to the surface,” she said. “You get to meet all kinds of people, with different needs and conditions, and you get to know their families too.
“I think people now realise the range of skills we need in this role. There’s a lot more appreciation of what care workers do.”
Doreen Taylor also took a roundabout route to Extra Hands, having previously been a chef at the University of East Anglia.
“When I started I didn’t know if I could do it, but after two days of training they told me I was a natural!”, she said. “You get stuck into the work and before you know it, 15 years have flown by.”
Caring is a demanding but rewarding job, but Doreen, who sees up to 10 people a day on her rounds, said the family values the home care company prides itself on make it all worthwhile.
“I don’t know if I would have continued doing it all this time if I was with another company,” she said. “You have to be a certain kind of person to do this job, and I think people are realising now just how much the job entails.
“At Extra Hands, you feel valued by the people you go out to visit, and also by the people you work for. As a company, they train you extremely well, and provide great support when you’re doing the job.”
At the age of 65, Doreen is looking forward to retirement, but job satisfaction means she is happy to continue working for as long as she can.
Co-ordinator Caroline Simpson has always worked in care. She says her front line experience helps her in her current behind the scenes role.
“Because I’ve been out there and done the job, I understand what the carers are talking about, and if they come to me with something that needs discussing or sorting out, I can appreciate what they’re saying and make sure that whatever is done puts the client first,” she explained.
“Staff are trained to the very highest standards – (training manager) Justin Mayes has won awards for that, and is continuing staff training in lockdown via Zoom – and the company will bend over backwards to make sure you’re comfortable. We’ve had people leave, then come back, because they find out other companies aren’t as supportive as Extra Hands.”
Over the last 15 years Caroline has seen a lot change, especially the tailoring of the support delivered to care users.
“It’s still all geared around the clients, though, and allowing them to stay in their homes as much as possible,” she said.
“It’s not all out of one box any more, they don’t all receive the same care, it’s very personal to each user. Demands really vary, but whatever they need, Extra Hands can deliver it, even if it’s just calling us to have a chat because they’re lonely. If that’s the type of care they want, that’s the care we will provide.”
Caroline, 62, is full of praise for how our team members are valued.
“Hazel (Evans) has always wanted it to stay a family orientated care company, and makes so much effort. I’ve been in lockdown since March and she’s rung me and everyone else, every week, to check things are ok,” she added.
All three have been working as normal during the lockdown, a time which has seen the role and work of carers recognised by the wider British public.
“We do a lot more extra jobs now rather than just personal care,” said Anne. “I’ve taken people out for social trips, shopping, whatever the clients needs, really. Especially in this situation, we’re there to help them in whatever way we can, and given them a sense of well-being and involvement. It’s not just about personal care, it’s about making sure they’re included in society, however we can do that.”
Lockdown means any more organised celebrations by the company will have to wait for a while yet, but as Caroline pointed out, one of the reasons why the trio have notched up such long service is because they are in the best place they can be.
“The people who run Extra Hands put their all into everything, for staff and for the care service users,” she said.
“People leave us, but they come back. I know one woman of 50 who went to work in a care home, lasted one hour and came back here in tears because she didn’t like it. The grass isn’t greener anywhere else than it is here.”