Home helps under pressure to fill the missing minutes
One of her colleagues was recently traumatised when she used her key to get into a client’s home and found that the elderly lady had fallen down the stairs and suffered serious injuries. The lady was blind and used to count her way down the steps. She worried about intruders and her home help always called out her name to reassure her, as she opened the door.
No one is sure how long she was lying in a distressed state and in agony in the hall, one leg awkwardly pinned behind her. This woman used to get three calls daily from a home help but this was recently cut to two. Now she is in a nursing home.
Home helps know that they can’t blame cuts for someone falling, but say vulnerable people who have lost either a lunchtime or an evening visit could, as a result, have to wait much longer for help if a crisis arises.
Bridie sometimes brings her own hoover to a client’s house if there is none there. She has done washing in her own home for someone with no washing machine or who needs sheets washed in a hurry.
Like many of her colleagues she regularly breaks the rules by changing colostomy bags for clients. “We are not supposed to but you could not leave someone with that seeping into bed sores,” says Bridie. She explains that the bond between home help and client becomes so close that the most intimate personal care can be looked after without embarrassment on either side.
“I have found a woman lying in bed, her incontinence pad on the floor and the bed destroyed. The poor thing can’t help it. I change everything. But it is hard to change a bed, bathe and dress someone, and get a bit of breakfast for them in half an hour.”
Bridie regularly washes and dresses leg ulcers to make one client more comfortable. “I have found her trying to wipe the seeping blood with a Jeyes cloth. The poor wee thing was so grateful when I helped her.”
Dealing with leg ulcers, bed sores, thrush and leaking colostomy bags are all in a day’s work for home helps. One recalled being confronted with a bandage leaking maggots where a client was being treated for gangrene.
“We have great fun with our clients and get very attached to them and when they get used to you coming to their home, they don’t want anyone else,” says Una.
Bridie is worried about an elderly couple both in their 80s whose hours have been reduced from 45 minutes five days a week, to twice a week. The woman is unable to carry anything heavy following surgery. Her husband has dementia and heart problems. She does not want to be identified, believing that they could endure further cuts if they kick up a row.
“My husband needs a fire especially now that it has got cold but I am not able to carry in the bucket of coal,” says the woman who cannot bend down. She says Bridie used to fill the coal every day, wash her husband, empty the commode, make the bed, make breakfast, and hoover – all chores she cannot manage now.