Couldn’t care less…

There’s a fair bit in the news at the moment about a care home and the abuse that went on there. As I have had the misfortune of a disabling accident, and then surgical misadventure that has left me dependent on carers , I am qualified to comment I feel on this. The irony of the meaning of the job title… the ‘ carer’ bit. All too often the ‘carer’ really doesn’t care, except about the paycheque bit every week.

I’ve had some very dodgy characters ‘ looking after ‘ me. Some were simply of very low intelligence, which made them unsafe and unsuitable, but a few have been scheming and vindictive ( like those highlighted on the news recently ). The worst case, in my own experience, was one Linda Warren, a Zimbabwean woman who was ONLY in it for the money, and actually it is well paid, especially considering how little some Carers actually do. Take the job title ‘ live in carer’ What that means is that they live rent free in your house, and have zero overheads, and if they can help it do nothing more than sit around in your home. They are often not even contracted to do any cleaning ( other than a bit of tidying up ) driving, shopping, aren’t allowed to lift anything heavier than a cup of tea etc etc. What they are often exceptionally good at is watching TV and being on their phones to friends and family. For the pleasure of their company it’s standard to pay around £130 per day to an agency.

Linda was a live in carer of mine. She hadn’t had a ‘ care’ job before but promised, and put in writing, that nothing was too much trouble, that she had boundless energy, had single handedly brought up 3 children, had run organisations, been a leader of men etc etc. She seemed too good to be true really….

And guess what?! If it looks too good to be true… then generally that’s exactly how it turns out. For a few weeks she was positive, enthusiastic and dedicated, but she just couldn’t keep it up. She had always had a maid in Zimbabwe, so hadn’t ever had to clean her own home, let alone that belonging to someone else. She hadn’t cooked or bought the food, or even made her own coffee – the maid did all that. It became apparent all too soon that doing ‘ menial ‘ ( but ordinary and normal to those of us in the UK ) was beneath her. Very quickly she came to comment on how she ‘ was just the domestic ‘ – a description that bewildered me because I rarely saw her doing anything that resembled a ‘ chore ‘.

I haven’t ever written about Linda, and her maltreatment of me, because I just wanted that memory to go away, but she reared her ugly head again recently when I had sight of things she’d written about me that were extremely unpleasant. I dismissed her, you see, after about 2 months, as her attitude got worse and worse, and her unpleasant nature emerged. The final straw was when she refused point blank to help me into bed one night. Given I couldn’t get into bed myself, it wasn’t something that was negotiable, and I pleaded that she just assist me. She said ‘ no, it’s not my problem, you’re on your own ‘. Having very few options indeed ( read none ) I said that if she didn’t help I’d call the police. She said ‘ sure, go on then’ having assumed that the London police were as corrupt and unreliable as those in South African countries….

When they turned up 5 minutes later, all 3 of them, and put it to her straightforwardly that she was guilty of abuse by not doing her job ( looking after/‘caring for ‘ a disabled person ) and that if she didn’t do it they’d have to arrest her ( and if I had further problems they were just a phone call away ) she did change her attitude and became very cooperative. By then though I’d had enough and avoided her as much as possible until I found someone else and got rid of her. True to her nature though, she had to do what she could to wreak harm, a year after her dismissal. I’d actually contacted her ex husband, after she’d gone, as Linda had this very clever way of making you doubt yourself, and so I wanted to learn more about her past. It turns out she’d been sacked before for being really objectionable, and her ex husband told me ( very unemotionally ) that he couldn’t think of a single job Linda was less suited to than caring for another human being.

It alarms me that Linda has carried on working in the Care industry. I tracked her down recently, after her recent intervention in my life, and see she is working for an agency that just employs women from Zimbabwe. The agency promises hard working mothers who have left their families to work in the UK. In the small print it seems that even the live in’s are entitled to 8 hours complete break in every 24 hours. Think about that though – if someone needs a live in carer, there’s every chance of it being unlikely that for 8 hours every day they are completely fine to be alone…..! The small print details ‘ companionship’ care at £130 a day, ‘ with no personal care ‘ So that’s £130 a day for company, without them doing much for you ref giving you a hand with washing or dressing. For that it’s far more, and if you ‘ disturb ‘ the carer ( who it says, may be ‘ exhausted after a full day’s work – that’ll be watching telly with you ) it’s £11 every time you ask for help.

I think that job suits Linda down to the ground. She was ‘ exhausted ‘ most of the time, after the first 3 weeks. As a one time extreme athlete I don’t think I’ve EVER said I’ve been ‘ exhausted ‘ ?! And that’s after say running marathons or kayaking hundreds of miles…. I mean exhaustion is surely when you have absolutely nothing left ( at all ) isn’t it? Watching telly and making cups of tea isn’t going to induce mild fatigue, let alone worse. Linda was allegedly a cycle multiple national champion previously, so more than most she should brush away a little workload like tv watching excess?

So back to the original point to this post – I’ve completely not been surprised by the ‘ revelations of psychological abuse ‘ in the Care Homes. The majority of Carers are really not true to their job title. I’ve had some lovely ones, but the likes of Lee, Stella and G are most certainly the exception rather than the rule. I’m able to voice my concerns and act upon them, but most people being ‘ cared for ‘ are not so able. It’s scary, it really is. Most ( white ) elderly people who need help in this country will not be looked after by their families, but will end up in Care. My advice? Avoid that at all costs – seriously. There are other ways out, as unpalatable as that may seem. When you are young, fit and able you can’t imagine being old and/ or incapable… but be warned, it’ll come to most of you.

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