Most people are expected to have some sort of training and / or experience prior to starting any job, as the ‘Companion’ at Wordsworth House I am no exception to that rule. Three years ago I became very ill as a result of getting an infection in my brain following neuro surgery to resolve my having Hydrocephalus (too much cerebral fluid in a part of my brain that should have been self draining).
This infection gave me a lot of the symptoms that are normally associated with dementia. I could only walk with the help of a stick and even with my stick moving from my bed to my armchair was an adventure! For my own safety I went to live in a care home first of all in Portugal where I had been living and then in Dorset so that I could attend the neuro department at Southampton Hospital. Much of this period I cannot remember except that I was incontinent, had great difficulty in writing, had very little appetite and became very thin. I found something as simple as writing in a diary too complicated.
During two and a half years as a resident in a care home I had two operations on my brain and three days after the second operation I found that I could walk without my stick (carers were constantly saying to me “Martin where is your stick?” And I began to realise that I was much better. I complained that I wasn’t getting enough exercise and the care home arranged for me to go on regular walks with their Activities Lady, my incontinence ended as did my constipation. My capacity to make decisions returned and I began to realise that I must get on with my life and hopefully work again, I didn’t want to go back to my previous job as an Examiner for the Royal Yachting Association but thought I would like to be either a carer or an activities person in a care home, in order to show that I might be able to do this work I had been trying to help in my care home by taking people to the loo whenever the opportunity arose, I realized that my efforts had been noticed when the head carer said to me that he was going on holiday for a week would I like him to leave his uniform behind for me to wear!
This gave me the confidence to ask the managers if they would employ me as an Assistant Activities Person and whilst they showed some initial interest they were then told by the owners of the home that it was against the rules to have a member of staff who had previously been a resident.
My next step was to google Care Homes in Swanage, I telephoned one towards the top of Google’s list which was Wordsworth Care Home and a few days later went up for an interview. I was asked if I could dance and sing to which I replied “No but I don’t mind looking stupid!”
To my amazement I was offered the job of Assistant Activities person, that was 14 months ago and since then my job title has been changed to ‘Companion’. I am now 75 years old and have much in common with the residents at Wordsworth, I like the same music, remember the same films and enjoy the same food. So we have a lot in common to talk about. We have entertainment at Wordsworth that involves the residents and staff dancing and singing, it is therefore true to say that I look and sound quite stupid on a regular basis! On one occasion about a year ago I was dancing with one of the ladies who told me that she hadn’t walked for several years and dancing was just a distant memory.
It is an enormous privilege for me to spend 5 days a week with these wonderful people, I take them for walks, go with them on trips, accompany them when they are taken to hospital by ambulance for appointments, drink endless cups of tea with them, have lunch with them and thanks to the excellent food provided by our two chefs have noticed that some of my clothes seem to have shrunk during the last 14 months! It is the most rewarding job that I have ever had.
Best wishes, Martin.