A CARER’S STORY OF AN UNHAPPY AND STRESSFUL WORK ENVIRONMENT

Bronagh Hannon wrote an excellent article in the August 2014 issue of the Psychologist magazine.  “She writes of her experience of working in a carer/support role.  She describes her experience of starting work at 7 am and getting people up, showered, fed and medicated within a half-four call and a rota which leaves no travel time between calls which can take 20 minutes, thereby getting further behind throughout the morning until the final breakfast call is closer to lunchtime.  As her last client cannot get out of bed herself, the client is in tears thinking no one is coming.  Then she describes lunch and then tea/dinner calls and all the time she is behind again as she has no travel time between calls.   Some clients are given their dinner at 4 30 pm and put to bed at 7 pm – which in winter may not be so bad but in summertime it must be horrible to be ready for bed so early.  She describes up to 18 hours away from home for eight hours pay.  With low pay, long hours, tight time constraints it is difficult to think of positives about the job.  She writes about elderly people for whom she knows she is their only visitor that day, but is in such a rush that she barely gets the chance to ask how they are.  If she stops and chats it will only impact upon the next clients, making her later still.   Bonagh holds a degree in Psychology and hopes to work as an assistant psychologist and hopefully become a clinical psychologist.  She describes how learning to connect with clients has some relevance for a career in clinical psychology.  But the conditions create a very unhappy and stressful work environment.  Carers have no control over the rota but have to deal with the fallout.   She apologised for being late most calls but the office never passed on the information to the client that she was running late.” The Psychologist vol 27 No. 8 August 2014 The British Psychological Society

Bronagh’s experience related to the UK but these same issues are being dealt with by carers in Ireland.  I know of carers who have to be in Ballybrack from 8 am to 9 am and then Sandymount at 9 am to 10 am and then Kilternan at 10 am.  Although clients are due a 1 hour call in fact they receive a 45 minute call.   There are also 30 minute calls which with travelling time are actually even less than 30 minutes.  Carers have no control over the rota but like Bronagh have to deal with the fall out from being late.  If a carer stays the allotted time, then with the additional traveling time, they work an additional 2 hours or more over an 8 hour day and will not get paid for that time.  Also carers report that they do not get lunch breaks and many report eating in the car at traffic lights, etc.  Bronagh like a lot of carers I have met say that the satisfaction of helping people and the benefits of flexible working are lost through company policies such as bad rostering, no travel time, changing clients just when the client and carer have developed a connection, having to pay for parking and petrol and then waiting 6 weeks or more for the refund.  Carers who work for companies need plenty of self care and sleep.

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