There is hardly any walk of life that has not been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic this year, and few roles have found themselves in the spotlight quite as much as the caring professions.
Extra Hands’ home visitors have been kept busier than ever, sometimes taking on new responsibilities, and for even the most experienced of staff, it has been something of a journey into the unknown.
But it has also presented opportunities for new members to join the team, and to find out precisely what being a carer is all about, with many people keen to become involved.
Among the younger new recruits is 20-year-old Tamara Proctor, from West Lynn, who said the onset of the pandemic had made her mind up about entering the profession.
“When I was growing up I was a carer for my mum, and I’d also seen how carers helped her, so when I could see what was happening with the virus, it seemed like the best time to get involved with a job that was a natural fit for me,” she said.
“It’s been really character-building. When I used to go and see someone I didn’t know, I tended to worry a bit, but having done the role for a few months now, I know it’s just part of the job, so I throw myself into it and it’s made me feel much more comfortable.”
Her previous job was working in a shoe shop, mainly dealing with older customers, which she said had given her a useful insight into some of the requirements of her new job, something that gave her great satisfaction, as did the way staff were treated by the company.
“The office has handled this whole thing brilliantly,” she said.
“Whenever there are any updates to policy, they always let us know, they’ve kept on top of things and always given everyone a chance to have their say. They’ve looked after us carers fantastically.”
For 25-year-old Natalie Ely from Hunstanton, joining at the time of the pandemic was just a coincidence. “I’d ummed and ahhed about entering the world of care work for a long time, and I just happened to take the leap of faith at this time, but I’m so glad I did – it’s an incredibly rewarding job,” she said.
The mum-of-two works evenings and alternate weekends out of the Heacham office, and said the work/life balance offered by Extra Hands, and the attention shown to staff, were huge selling points.
“In previous jobs, when I’ve been to talk to management I’ve felt like I was on tenterhooks but there’s absolutely none of that here, it’s like talking to
friends,” she said. “I can’t fault my coordinator Sarah at all, she makes you feel so at ease and you can go to her with absolutely anything job-related.”
Her background in bar work and retail meant she was used to dealing with people, but she admitted she did wonder if the particular requirements of caring would suit her personality.
“My main concern was that if you hear someone’s not well, or been taken to hospital, I was worried I’d get too attached, but I’ve learnt to give my all at work, and then to have the capability not to take my work home with me,” she said.
Khloe Evans, 21, from South Wootton, is in a slightly different situation, having joined Extra Hands earlier this year for a second stint, after time away working in a care home.
“The hours there were too much, so I came back specifically to Extra Hands because I remembered how accommodating they were the first time round, and also how much I’d enjoyed working for them,” she said.
This year, she admitted, had been particularly challenging, but she has no regrets about her return to the company. “I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else,” she said. “It’s been a tough year, because it’s been very hard for a lot of the people we care for, but I think I’m sort of person who naturally does more than I need to to help people, and in this environment, that’s made a huge difference.
"Knowing that, when you leave the house, you’ve set someone up for their day and they’re feeling good about it – that means you can leave with a smile on your face.”
Above all, she said, the support of the company had made a challenging time easier. “It’s been hard work for the company to keep everything running, but they’ve done a great job and they’re always there to support us, whatever time of the day or night,” she said.
“It’s my second time with Extra Hands, and they are by far one of the best places I’ve ever worked.”