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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.”

Community

Local volunteers drive GPs to essential home visits in Crawley

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Image: Dr Phoebe Danes and volunteer Chris Ball.

Local volunteers have stepped up to help drive clinicians to home visits during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The initiative was launched by local GP federation Alliance for Better Care, who have rented black cabs to provide essential transport for clinicians attending patients’ homes. 

The taxis, which have been adapted to make them easier to clean, are driven by volunteer drivers who have come forward via various community Facebook groups.

Thanks to the layout of the cab, drivers are completely separated from the clinician who is also afforded extra space in the cab to put on PPE and write up notes. 

Matt Cullis, practice manager at Leacroft Medical Practice said:

“Our surgery is still open to treat patients, however, home visits have become particularly important for those who are shielding and not wanting to leave their homes. This service saves us time and allows our doctors to travel to appointments in an environment that can be easily cleaned and has room to put on PPE.”

Alliance for Better Care is the GP federation for Crawley, Horsham, Mid-Sussex and East Surrey and so far the project has been rolled out at Leacroft Surgery in Crawley and throughout Burgess Hill, with plans to extend it to East Grinstead and Horley in the coming weeks.

Katherine Saunders, ABC chief executive said:

“We have been overwhelmed with the number of volunteers who have come forward and we’d like to thank them all for offering to support this service. We are, of course, committed to protecting both our volunteers and our clinicians. We insure drivers and carry out all necessary checks while also providing PPE. This is a valuable resource for our clinicians, and increases our capacity to reach more patients.”

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