What’s it like to work as a care worker over Christmas?

  The role of carers in social care is crucial over the festive period. We speak to UK carers about their experience of the job

Every year tens of thousands of dedicated care and social care workers are needed to help look after vulnerable people over Christmas. Their role is crucial over the festive period, but what’s it like to work in the job during Yuletide?

“It’s not a job just for the money,” says Susan Law, who has worked as a care worker for more than 30 years for Leonard Cheshire Disability. “You’ve got to have a love of people and a willingness to help.”

Christmas is a particularly important time of year for carers, who look after the most vulnerable people in our communities. Their role at Christmas is to get each of the patients dressed and ready for the day with their families. “The continuity is important for those patients – they see a familiar face and keep their usual routine,” says Debra Watson, a care worker for Bluebird Care in Petersfield. “I particularly enjoy Christmas Day, going in and wishing everyone a merry Christmas.”

Carers in residental homes plan Christmas-themed activities, including the giving of gifts, a turkey lunch and festive-themed films. Carers also help get residents ready for friends and relatives who come along to celebrate. “I’ve worked over the last six Christmases. It’s nice to give your time to others and help people live a normal life,” says Law.

What does the role of a carer involve?

Everything you’d usually do when looking after someone at home, says Watson. This includes bringing cups of tea and making their meals. Over Christmas, care involves getting people dressed and ready for family and friends to come visit.

“On a typical day I start work at about 7am, go to my first visit and make sure the service users are up, washed and dressed. Then as the day progresses I go out shopping for them, make them cups of tea and make sure they eat and drink,” says Law.

For Yvonne Cox, dementia team leader for Hallmark care homes, being a carer also involves organising festive day trips. “In the afternoons I arrange lifestyle trips, so we might take residents out for coffee, walks or trips to local museums, garden centres, ponds and parks. At this time of year we also put on a special Christmas showing in our cinema.

“You get to know the residents and know their preferences. It’s this personal sense of care that I love the most. In the normal world everyone’s different and in a care environment you must make sure not to lump everyone together.”

What skills are needed to become a carer?

Sensitivity is of course important, but there are variety of other skills needed to make a good carer. “You have to be compassionate, sociable and enjoy working with people,” adds Watson. Key to this care is always treating people with dignity.

Social skills are crucial for this job. “The only negatives are with a domestic environment it can be quite challenging. With dementia the knock on effect can be quite strong – for example if one resident has an episode, others may follow,” explains Cox.

It is, however, a very rewarding role. “When you work with dementia, the people say thank you and really mean it,” adds Cox. “I love it all – the care, doing the washing up, taking trips with the residents.” Watson agrees: “There are no real negatives about the job.”

While working as a carer is a worthwhile job, the skillset needed to succeed means it is not for everyone. “It’s a job you’ve got to love and be dedicated to,” says Laws.

Cox agrees: “It’s very rewarding but it’s also hard work. It’s the type of job that has got to come from your heart.”