Rachel Abbott has worked for Somerset Care for almost 34 years. She was part of the original team of community care workers in Wells who transferred over from the local authority back in 1991, calling into the office each morning for her handwritten list of people to support that day.
Rachel also became the face of the new Somerset Care team when her photo – showing off the team’s stylish new uniform – was featured on the organisation’s original community care services leaflet.
The new uniforms were not always the most practical (dresses fastened with poppers not without risk when delivering personal care), and the work can hardly be described as glamorous, but Rachel cannot speak highly enough about the satisfaction she gets from giving someone back their dignity.
Here are Rachel’s recollections on over 30 years of supporting people to live the life they choose at home.
All about the people
“It has always been about the people, for me.” Rachel explains. “There have been some real characters that I’ve got to know and love over the years; people with thick Somerset accents, strong opinions and a brilliant sense of humour. All of them different, and all of them needing support to meet the basic human needs that they can no longer manage alone.
“I feel like I grew up with some of my more long-standing clients – they taught me a lot and I have learnt so much along the way. Delivering personal care is not without its challenges, but I find it really rewarding.
Signs of the times
“When I first started out in care, I would be asked to visit people who lived in houses that still had an outside toilet and no hot running water. I fondly remember one lady that I cared for who still had a giant copper that she would boil her sheets and towels in. It sounds archaic, but I’ve never seen anyone get their towels whiter and fluffier than she did.
“It’s shocking to say this now, but there were also some properties where myself and the team were asked to use the back door as we were ‘trade’. Thankfully attitudes have moved on a lot since then.”
Mishaps and memories
“Looking back, there have been some funny moments in amongst the serious business of providing much-needed personal care. I think we all experienced the odd ‘wardrobe malfunction’ with the original popper-fastened uniforms, and on one memorable occasion I accidentally managed to upend a commode on a particularly sloping farmhouse floor – that’s not a mistake you make twice!
More than a job
“If personal care was just a job for me, I wouldn’t still be doing it, but the truth is that I love it. There is nothing more rewarding than giving someone back their dignity and helping them to feel themselves again.
“It takes patience and perseverance to deliver personal care, but it’s good to go home at the end of the day with the simple pleasure of knowing you have made your clients more comfortable than before you arrived. That’s where the biggest need is, where you can make the biggest difference, and where you will find the biggest reward.”