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Crawley care manager shares how family tragedy led her to care for others

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Hilary joined Housing 21 seven years ago after feeling compelled to enter a career in care following the sad deaths of her parents and brother, who had all required care themselves.

Tragically, Hilary’s brother who had progressive MS was mis-medicated and as a result passed away suddenly. Her brother’s passing devastated Hilary’s mum, who died shortly after. Hilary’s dad had passed away a few years before in a Dementia Care Home.

Hilary originally started her care work in the evenings, administering medication and settling residents for bed.

She did this while still working in retail during the day, which she had done for 24 years. After realising that working two jobs was too much, Hilary decided to follow her heart and apply for a full-time role at Housing 21’s Walstead Court.

Hilary reflects:

“I wish I had known about Housing 21 when I left school. Considering I had never done anything like care work, the application process was extremely easy and the managers were so helpful and encouraging, they made me feel comfortable about my lack of experience and told me how much they were looking forward to teaching me. After five years of working two jobs, I realised I was extremely tired of working in retail and nothing about the role was fulfilling, I was unhappy and Walstead Court was where I wanted to be.

“I wish I had known about Housing 21 when I left school. Considering I had never done anything like care work, the application process was extremely easy and the managers were so helpful and encouraging, they made me feel comfortable about my lack of experience and told me how much they were looking forward to teaching me. After five years of working two jobs, I realised I was extremely tired of working in retail and nothing about the role was fulfilling, I was unhappy and Walstead Court was where I wanted to be.

“Without my role at Housing 21, I would have fallen apart. I started soon after my brother’s death and never looked back. I felt a need to keep people safe and ensure they were given the correct care they required by someone they could trust. I poured myself into the job, the residents and the care; I wouldn’t have survived without it.”

When asked what her favourite thing is about the role, Hilary says:

“Everything. Seeing the residents smile and giving you a hug is so rewarding. There’s nowhere else I would rather be, I may as well live at Walstead Court, it has such a positive effect on your mindset.

“We’re a small court and Care Team but we are so close, the team really makes the job so much easier. I’m now an Assistant Care Manager, but I still choose to do my 10 hours of care work a week, which I love. The residents see my role as the singer, and that’s how I communicate with some of them. There is a lady at the court who has dementia and we’ve created a cup of tea song which we both sing every morning. I’m also a hairdresser, a companion, an escort to their hospital appointments and someone to chat to. It’s so much more than just personal care. The residents confide in you, you are like their family and for some, we’re the only family they have.

“We hold weekly activities such as karaoke and skittles and give the residents the chance to suggest events. We’re looking into joining up with a sister court so the residents can mix with each other and it gives them a chance to go on an outing.”

When asked if Hilary would recommend a career as a Care Worker with Housing 21 to others, she says:

“Of course, it’s so rewarding, it’s not your average 9-5 job as every day is different. You don’t feel like you’re at work, I feel like I’m off to see friends and family. I would never swap this absolutely amazing career for anything.”

Health & Wellbeing

Stay healthy and well with Wellbeing Month at Crawley Library

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Next week marks the start of Wellbeing Month across all 36 West Sussex libraries.

Throughout March, libraries will be celebrating all the ways that books, reading and local libraries can help people stay healthy and well.

Special events taking place include:

  • Wellbeing MOT’s – offering advice, help and support on healthy diet, weight loss, stopping smoking, reducing alcohol, and more.
  • West Sussex MIND – will be advising residents about their new campaign ‘Moving Minds’ and providing information about the mental health services they offer.
  • Apetito drop-in and free taster – come and sample some of the delicious foods on offer from West Sussex County Council’s Meals on Wheels provider Apetito, who provide hot meals to elderly and vulnerable people across the county (Southwick library only).

There will also be NHS health checks, reminiscence taster sessions, story walks for children, games for families. Plus regular events including Knit and Natter, Relax with Colouring and ‘Melody for the Mind’, a singing group for people with dementia and their carers.

‘Melody for the Mind’ sessions are currently run at Broadfield, East Grinstead and Southwick Libraries, with a brand-new session starting at Chichester on Thursday 5 March.

Duncan Crow, Cabinet Member for Fire and Rescue and Communities, said:

“Libraries always have communities at the heart of everything they do, and this month is no exception.

“Wellbeing, both physical and emotional, is so important and the programme that has been created by the libraries team for Wellbeing Month has a variety of great activities, events and reading that will hopefully make our residents feel happier and healthier in mind and body.”

All libraries will have displays of books chosen by library staff to lift the readers mood and help them feel better. The genres range from uplifting poetry to non-fiction titles with practical advice for difficult times.

To find out more on everything happening during Wellbeing Month at your local library and throughout the rest of the year, visit www.westsussex.gov.uk/libraries

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