The Newcastle Soup Lady reigniting a passion for food among older people · Home Instead Recruitment
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Name: Lorraine Birkett

Job Title: CAREGiver

When Lorraine Birkett’s two sons grew up and flew the nest, it didn’t end her need to nurture and care for people. Instead it marked the beginning of a caring career which would see her winning a national CAREGiver of the year award and a unique nickname.

The 57-year-old grandmother of three from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, also known as ‘The Soup Lady’ has been caring for people for as long as she can remember. Lorraine says: “I always wanted to be a nurse, but my life took a different direction. So, when my two sons grew up and didn’t need me around as much, I felt like I needed to do something else.

“That’s when I began to work for Home Instead as a CAREGiver. Feeling like I’m needed and that I can help make someone’s life a bit easier is a massive positive.”

Going above and beyond

Lorraine joined Home Instead Senior Care six years ago and has gone on to become an asset to the company, going above and beyond her role and helping older people in her local community to eat nutritious, hearty meals and regain their love of food.

“When people get older their appetites lessen and their portion sizes get smaller. With experience you start to spot the people who aren’t getting enough healthy food. You go in to find stacks of unopened tins and uneaten fresh food in the fridge.

“You often begin to find people don’t have as much energy as they used to and that their clothes, watches or jewellery get that little bit looser. It’s small signs and things people often miss, or don’t know how to address. When you work in a job like this you know the signs and what to look for.

“Often the older people I work with will tell me that they aren’t hungry or just want a sandwich, but usually the truth is they have fallen out of love with food and cooking. They just don’t feel like making a proper meal anymore.”

Newcastle’s Soup Lady

Faced with more and more of her clients struggling to get a balanced diet and noticing the effects, Lorraine took it upon herself to become Newcastle’s very own Soup Lady.

“I started to see the effect that not eating or drinking properly has on clients. They get weaker and can get confused. I couldn’t just let this happen, so this is when I started going into clients’ homes and cooking them up big batches of soups and stews to get them eating again. A lot of older people will say that they’re not hungry but once they can smell you cooking they really start to perk up – nine times out of ten once they’ve got a big bowl of food in front of them they wolf it down despite earlier protests.

“After that I noticed a real change in the attitudes towards food in the people I care for. With batches of healthy, homemade soups and stews ready in the freezer, the same people who were skipping meals and doing without started thriving again and rediscovering their love of food.”

Caring is not something that she leaves behind at the end of the working day. Lorraine splits her spare time between caring for her own elderly mother, who Lorraine has supported through a life-saving lung cancer operation, and looking after her youngest grandchildren three days a week – but she says she wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I’d be bored if I had nothing to do. I’m not one for going on long holidays to relax, I love caring for people and it’s not just me caring for them – I really do need them as much as they need me.”