Ever wondered what a care assistant job is really like?
If you think you know what a care home care assistant does, think again. You’ll be surprised. Karen Ashberry takes us through this crucial and multifaceted social care role.
10th May 2012
You’ve worked in social care for several years, but you started out as a Relief Assistant working with social services. Can you tell us about that job and what your responsibilities were?
My role as a Relief was to cover any role & hours within the care home. I would cover any hours from 1 hour a week to as many as 13 hrs daily over 7 days, also covering days & nights within the same week. As you can see, this was before regulations came in!
I was always on–call. My responsibilities were always to follow the EPH (Elderly Persons Home) duties & routines, Social Services policy & procedures, Local Authority & National Government policy & procedures for that Era (changed since then). Within the care home I would cover posts & carry out instructions from Officers, Clients & fellow colleagues responsible for the post .
These are some of my duties:
Laundry - duties included ensuring all laundry was washed at correct washing instructions, ironed, repaired, put into client’s bedrooms, clean the laundry & report any machinery to management for maintenance to repair.
Kitchen Domestic – assist the cook, cover light preparation of meals, wash up all the crockery after meals , fill condiments sets, report any repairs, lay tables, serve food, follow daily routine & duties
Cook & Asst Cook – duties would consist of following the daily/weekly menu of home cooked meals & meals for individuals needs - preparing monthly menus, stock checking, ordering, date labeling, serving foods, work as a team within the kitchen ,
Care / Night care – To assist & encourage a client to be as independent as possible within their own abilities & needs. Monitor their health & wellbeing, stimulate with range of different activities, keep their room clean & their items cared for – care for them when ill or dying – Routine activities Admissions, discharges, Inventories, Updating care plans repairing clients clothing or shopping with or for a client .
Night care would have cleaning duties of the communal areas, regular night checks on all throughout the night, taking immediate action if someone is ill/had an accident or has died (assess area & record every little detail)
Domestic – duties were to ensure all areas of the care home were kept clean and odorless, bedrooms, bathrooms, toilets, offices, corridors, Daily routine strip & change beds, toilets & bathrooms all cleaned & stocked followed and weekly or monthly duties carried out, curtains, windows, report any maintenance / repair – carpet washing/steaming
The care home team has daily, weekly & monthly routines that each role perform, which were all monitored/amended by the Officers & I would have supervision to develop & improve my knowledge & competences, training needs & address any issues.
How did your care assistant jobs in a nursing home differ from your first job in social care?
For the nursing home role, I had to be assessed as to whether I had enough knowledge & training to become a health assistant to the nurses or remain a care assistant. I found that the clients were institutionalized & didn’t have as much stimulation. Their individual needs required more clinical observation & intervention daily. The unit had the same daily weekly & monthly routines.
As a care assistant the role was more about cleaning. As a health assistant it had a more clinical aspect. For instance, I would assist the nurses with clinical procedures preparing the room and equipment, and provide support for the client in many different ways.
Throughout your career in nursing homes and in care homes jobs, you’ve worked hard to progress from care assistant to Senior Night Career. Can you tell us more about the additional responsibilities you had when you were Senior Night care?
Senior night care came when the local authority/social services stopped officers sleeping in the EPH/premises. Before that if a client was ill, had suffered an accident or was dying / died in their sleep the night care would wake the officer up who would then take responsibility & be accountable.
As a senior care assistant (SCA) I became more accountable & my responsibilities were:
to ensure the EPH was safe & secure & all who were in the home throughout my shift following Health & Safety procedures
Receive handover & then see all the clients still up & find out their requests & assist individuals to bed & follow their individual care plan.
Medication handling, storage, administration, disposal & returns
Record & report hourly checks carry out nightly cleaning tasks
Attend to phone calls, action any requests, fill in necessary forms & book or write reports
I would be a mentor & supervise care assistants develop them with the care plans or Individual service plan
It was my responsibility to take immediate action when faced with any situation that happened during my shift that could have been minor or major incidents, accidents, illness or Fire (which involves reassurance, comfort provision and dignity to individuals, contact with emergency services
You’ve also worked as a Senior Home Carer in a sheltered housing organisation. Can you tell us more about how a sheltered housing scheme differs from that of a care home?
Clients are lot more independent. They live in their own apartment which has a bedroom, living room, bathroom & kitchen and this apartment is within a block. They have more choice, so if they wanted to cook their own meal in their own apartment or join others at meal times they could, they choose.
Some clients’ needs required assistance from home care to assist with daily living needs such as shopping, preparing light snacks, or personal hygiene. If a client’s needs became more dependent or they became unable to care for themself they would be assessed for either EPH or nursing.
Talk us through the process of assessing the needs of an individual, devising a care plan and putting it into place from the point of view of assigning services and scheduling staff.
A social worker is the main point of service requests, but some do come from other teams and sources. In any case a vacant bed or space for any service would have been sent to the local social work team for allocation.
A request for what service a client requires will come from the social worker team, this information will be assessed against criteria for the EPH/EMI/HC/DC etc. looking at availability. Any questions or queries regarding the care plan or availability are sorted out with the social worker.
Upon all being cleared the EPH/EMI/etc., I would assign the keyworker. They would then befriend and build up trust with the client in order to become the first point of contact & main carer.
Do you think it’s going to get harder over the coming years for people to have a successful career in social care, even if they start off as care assistants and work their way up?
Opportunities without a qualification are unheard of, and frowned on, now. Yet so many people from 1950-1970 started off with no qualifications, many of whom have become head of sections & companies or even entrepreneurs in the care industry.
I was successful in an interview to become a relief simply because I had cared for my grandfather and volunteered for W.R.V.S and other support groups. I had no qualifications in care.
I believe that on-the-job training is the best source of training and it seems we are returning to this. Training has become more frequent and, I think, standards increased and improved.
I would say to anyone looking for a career in social care to not be put off if you don’t have a degree, or you’re finding it hard to get a job, as training is plentiful and knowledge and development relatively easy to access and build through voluntary work, libraries and of course the internet.
I’ve learnt a lot from clients over the years, in all kinds of ways, and for that I won’t ever forget them.