We first met William when he completed his dementia training with us some years ago. William has over fourteen years of experience in care, which shines through his love for the role. As well as a strong passion for his work, he is qualified to a Diploma Level 3 and in Dementia Care. The most important value that he takes away from the training though, is to see a person for their person-hood and not for their dementia. Passionately, he talked about connection with people in advanced stages of dementia; he talked of how he used creative communication strategies, and the joy this gives him.
Williams’s skills were put to the test during the pandemic, when there was a big outbreak in the care home where he worked, and over half the residents caught COVID-19. William found himself working more and more hours, often up to 50 per week, having to take on multiple roles: being a carer, nurse, friend, and family. New clinical skills had to be learned on the job such as taking blood pressure and reading someone’s pulse. The complex skills required were way above his pay grade. What helped at this time though was ‘mucking in’ all together. This togetherness – this banding together, added more strength in such a challenging time.
One of the biggest hurdles that William faced was supporting residents in the absence of family. William recalls one night when he sat with a woman who was dying, as her family could not be with her. He sat and comforted her, not leaving her side for the whole night. He recalls their conversations about the joy she had for her grandchildren. He comforted her until the moment she died.
Another resident living with dementia was also in this position, unable to see her husband who had previously come and sat with her every evening. Although she didn’t always recognise him, it was part of her routine. So, when
her husband couldn’t come and visit her anymore, there was a significant behaviour change and decline.
During this time, William worked exceptionally hard to keep himself and others emotionally and physically safe. He was vigilant about infection control, and always ensured wearing full personal protective equipment (PPE). Despite all of this, seven months ago, William caught COVID-19. He wasn’t even able to return home as he needed to keep his vulnerable partner safe. However, William was truly cared for by his organisation who provided him with an isolation room on premises, checked on him, returning the care that he had given for years.
Once William returned home, he found that he had recurring symptoms. He was diagnosed with LONG COVID, and experiences profound pain every day. At only age 38, he now takes ten tablets a day and this does not eradicate the pain. Tiredness rules most of his days and he is unable to support his family in the way he used to. He reflected that he feels frustrated as his condition isn’t improving and is looking for answers from the health team, but these are not always forthcoming.
I asked William what he wanted his main message to be. He said: “We knew the risks of our job, like soldiers going to war, but we still went. However, there is very little recognition for our work – what I can’t understand is why the queen doesn’t give out MBEs to carers”.
The humanity given by these true heroes deserves a decent pay, recognition of their skills and appropriate support with the long-term impacts of COVID-19. It is a value that is continuously devalued in a system which prioritises money
over connection and care. But here we are, trying to combat this through telling stories of wonderful human beings like William, who have given so much. Whilst we are unable to name the employer in this blog, we salute the way you
have cared for William – a care and respect which we work to prioritise.