Judi, who had previously worked as an estate agent and a model, before owning her own antiques shop, was initially unsure about making the switch to caregiver. However, what started off as a job to fill the spare hours swiftly became Judi’s primary focus and three years on she’s working six days a week looking after older people in their own homes.
Judi, now 73 and a grandmother of four, said: “If you’d told me even a few weeks before I started that I would be working as a caregiver, I would have told you to stop being so ridiculous. Now I can’t imagine a time when I would want to give it up – I asked to do additional days because I think it’s the most rewarding way I can spend my time. My family think I’m a little bit mad wanting to carry on working on such a packed schedule at my age, but I just love my job, it’s as simple as that.”A changing perception of care work
When a friend first suggested the idea of working in care, Judi initially discounted it.
Said Judi: “I didn’t think that I would be able to do the work, I thought I wouldn’t be suited to it. I also had in my head the stories you read about in the media around poor care, abuse and 15 minute visits. My friend kept insisting that Home Instead was different. She said she’d heard about them through her church and that all the feedback had been incredibly positive. Eventually she persuaded me to get in touch.”
After walking by the Home Instead office in Budleigh Salterton a few times trying to get up the courage to go in, Judi took the plunge.
She continued: “They were all so friendly and helpful. I’d been worried that there would be an age limit for working there, but they assured me that wasn’t the case. I found out that their visits to people were always at least an hour long and that they tried to match caregivers with clients based on interests. That really put my mind at ease and I started to think this could be the right job for me after all.”
When Judi started with Home Instead her intention had been to provide the companionship side of the service rather than helping with personal care tasks such as helping people with washing and bathing. Having seen what was involved, however, she soon changed her mind.
Judi continued: “I wasn’t sure I could manage the personal care side of the role, but one particular couple changed this for me. I found I felt guilty that their other caregiver was doing all of the personal care tasks and I started to think – how hard can it be? I decided to take the training and never looked back.”The benefit of experience
Rather than seeing her age as a barrier to providing care for others, Judi sees it as an advantage – even looking after some clients who are younger than her.
Said Judi: “I have lots of things in common with the people I look after and I think my age is a definite advantage there. I know the same recipes that they used to love making themselves, I know how to help them look after their gardens, and I can reminisce about the past with them.
“I feel I’m better suited to this work now, than I would have been when I was young. I think I would have been embarrassed by the personal care side then, but it takes a lot more to embarrass me now.”
Vanessa McGlade, owner of Home Instead Senior Care Exeter and East Devon added: “Age really is no barrier to working in the caring profession. Judi is a fantastic example of someone who wanted to keep working and has actually found her age is beneficial when caring for older people. We have two other ladies who are also in their seventies working for us as caregivers and they are all very valued members of the team.”A real people person
Judi believes that whether you’re old or young, the most important thing about working in care is to enjoy meeting new people and making new friends.
She added: “It’s lovely working for Home Instead because we’re given the time to really get to know our clients. Little things make a big difference – remembering how they like their toast or what their favourite song is. Because I see the same people every week, I’ve built very strong bonds with them and I feel incredibly privileged that they trust me so implicitly.”
A mother-of-two, Judi has been asked by her family when she’s going to slow down, but she’s not quite ready just yet.
Continued Judi: “When I think about cutting down my hours I also think about what that will mean for my clients. I might have to stop seeing some of them, and I wouldn’t want to do that.
“One of my lovely clients once said to me, ‘You won’t leave, will you?’ I know one day the answer to that will have to be ‘Yes I will,’ but I hope that day is a little way off yet.”