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We meet with Jackie at Denbies Vinyard to discover more about her role as a Carer Support Worker

On a sunny Spring day in April, we met up with one amazing lady. Jackie is a Carer Support Worker for Crossroads Care Surrey. She is part of a larger team of 150 people just like her who work for the charity supporting more than 900 unpaid Carers across the county.

Crossroads Care Surrey have been quietly providing an incredible service to the community for more than 35 years. The organisation is known for its continued commitment to serving those who need help most, the unpaid Carer.

An unpaid Carer is someone who cares for another person, often a member of their family or a friend who is disabled, has a condition or complex need which means they need someone else to look after them and their care needs. Carers will very often have no time for themselves; their care role evolves over a period of time meaning it could take years to fully understand their role. By which time, the physical and emotional drain on their health can be overwhelming.

Meeting Jackie for the first time, I hoped someone just like her will be my carer one day should I need help. She has been with Crossroads for more than 12 years and it’s clear to see how committed she is, often going above and beyond what may be expected. In addition to the structured training which all Carer Support Workers must complete prior to working, Jackie and her colleague Jan opted to take on additional personal development – a ‘learn to train’ course supporting dementia learning. As a result, she and Jan have now been delivering dementia training to all new staff for the last five years.

Jackie originally took on the role to give her some structure to her week. She quite liked the flexibility, meaning she could fit the care role in and around family life. Jackie says:

It’s all about people, building up relationships with the ones you care for, but also their main Carer. Because of your help, they will be able to go off and have time for themselves. Some may simply sleep, others may catch up on chores like shopping or cleaning or take time out to see friends and other family members.”

Getting out and about is not always easy and just going for a cup of tea and cake with a cared for person can be an eventful occasion. Jackie says, “It’s not all about the coffee, but simply taking pleasure in the full experience of the day. Living every moment with the cared for person and remembering to leave your own personal world behind making sure the session is really special.”

Most recently during a care session, Jackie took an elderly lady with dementia to the local churchyard. There they sat together in what Jackie calls ‘companionable silence’, a place where you both feel at ease in one another’s company without the need to speak. Jackie was surprised when the lady suddenly pointed out her husband’s grave. Being there must have sparked a memory and so Jackie decided on their next visit, she would make every effort to polish up the sign on her husband’s grave. Another client she cared for only opened up to her after four years of caring for him. She learned that many years earlier his child died of a heart defect at 18 months of age. As he told her, he wept for the loss of his child. He must have felt at ease by sharing this very personal story.

Jackie says,

occasionally some people with dementia can have no facial expression so it’s not always clear to read what people are thinking or feeling. Some clients may show how they’re feeling by placing their head on your chest or by reaching out a hand to show it’s okay to touch”

“I love my job” says Jackie. “It’s not always easy, but I take great pleasure from helping people. There are good days and bad days, but on the whole it’s an honour and privilege to be allowed in to take part in someone’s life, making a real difference.”