Louise, a support worker for 21 years, tells us why she loves her job, and why you might, too:
“I’m part of a team that supports four people: Jeremy, Mervyn, Karen and Peter, who live together but have separate hobbies and interests. Jeremy is a thinker and likes walks; Mervyn loves cars, going to the pub, books and old films; Karen loves her pampering; Peter likes one-to-one attention, he’s not over-enthusiastic about cleaning his room or shopping but he loves going to church every Sunday and he adores the music.
As a support team, I believe our job is to help all four people to develop their independence and pursue the things that matter to them individually. We support them to do the things that they choose and enjoy.
I love supporting people to try and learn new things. It’s often the little things, like helping Merv learn how to peel a potato. It’s finding out their favourite things to do, such as swimming or tenpin bowling, and then supporting them to do it.
Support work is in my blood; my mum had a career in Social Care and was a really strong role model for me. Growing up, my uncle had a learning disability and I enjoyed supporting him to do things. I’m a people person and passionate about enabling everyone to live as independently as possible. Sometimes that’s not easy. All four of the people I support have profound and multiple learning disabilities but that doesn’t mean they can’t make decisions or express preferences. As a support worker, it is important to be a good observer, to spot what is bringing someone pleasure or frustrating them, to recognise and respond to patterns of behaviour. Although some of the people I support don’t speak, we work together with pictures and objects of reference to plan each day together.
What might a typical day look like for you and the people you support?
Days have structure and routine, but are personalised to each individual. We start on a day shift at 7am and have a quick discussion about who should do what and go through any handover points. We have to think about who likes being supported by whom, while also getting people used to being around new team members. There are lots of things to consider before you even walk through each bedroom door to support the person to get up.
We’ll knock and open the door cautiously to see if the person we’re supporting is ready to get up. Sometimes Jeremy has a nice long lie in, then he might go to bed later – there’s no fixed times for getting up or going to bed, for washing or eating. I wouldn’t like that in my own life so why should people we support put up with it? I’ll also ask the person I’m due to be supporting if they’re happy for me to support them or if they’d prefer someone else.
We always work to each person’s care and support plan first with regards to things like medication, health and diet. We’ll fulfil any appointments and then go from there – playing it by ear on a day-to-day basis but always in line with the person’s interests and preferences.
I love supporting people – it’s really rewarding when you see people enjoy their day and achieve new things. You’ve got to be passionate about it and I’ve always worked in a fantastic team, so I’m surrounded by positive energy and by other people who love their jobs too.”
If you’re interested in finding out more about careers with Discovery, visit www.discovery-uk.org/careers