In 2002, Mark swapped hospitality for haulage, leaving behind a 30-year career to drive heavy goods vehicles in the UK and across Europe. After 12 years behind the wheel, he decided it was time for another big career change and in January 2016, he joined Home Instead Senior Care. Working around 30 hours a week over five days, Mark is now a CAREgiver, helping older people to maintain their independence and quality of life in their own homes.
Father-of-three Mark, from Cheltenham, said: “When I was 16 my grandad came to live with us and I think that influenced my relationships with older people. I live by the rule that age is an attitude. At 63, people ask me if I ever think of giving up work and my reply is always ‘what for?’ As a CAREGiver I feel so lucky to do what I do now and it’s more than a job – it’s a privilege.”
Age doesn’t have to be a dictator
With his youngest client aged 65 and the oldest over 100, Mark, a grandfather-of-one has seen first-hand that age doesn’t have to dictate how you live life. He explains: “The oldest client I’ve cared for was 103. He used to take himself into the town centre on the bus, he remained incredibly independent. My care visits were simply to help with house work and meals. I currently care for a 96 year old lady who I take to the garden centre once a week. She walks the legs off me and we’ll do several laps of the garden centre as she loves it so much!”
Mark understands the importance of building trust and relationships with his clients from the very first visit. He says: “You have to hit the ground running and build trust quickly. I often use humour to make that initial connection and to make my clients feel at ease. Making someone laugh works wonders. Everyone is different and that’s what’s so great about this job. But because we’re matched with clients, you know before you meet them that you will have common interests, or a shared experience, and that is really important.”
Mark has often used his cheffing skills in his role as a CAREGiver. He says: “One of my clients is Scottish and part of my visit involves cooking her evening meal. I’m trying to find and cook as many traditional Scottish foods and dishes as I can. It’s so nice to see her reminisce about all the tastes and flavours she enjoyed growing up.
“It’s a real honour when my clients share their lives and memories with me. Many of my male clients have had military experience of one type or another and those memories are so incredible. By chatting and sharing stories, I found out that one of my clients served in the Scottish regiment of the Royal Engineers and was based in the same town, at the same time, as my dad.
“I also have another client who knew he’d served in the forces but dementia meant he couldn’t remember his rank. One day, whilst finding him a jacket to wear for church, I discovered his uniform and by looking at the badges, worked out he was a Colonel. That aspect of the job, having time to build relationships and get to know the person, which goes beyond ensuring someone has had their evening meal, is what makes Home Instead so special.”
The support to support others
Despite having volunteered with the Samaritans for seven years, the transition from lorry driver into CAREGiver surprised those closest to Mark. Having no previous experience in a home care role was something that others thought would be a barrier to a new career.
But Home Instead Senior Care has a values-led approach to recruitment. They look for people with compassion and empathy, not just those with qualifications in care. Providing visits that are a minimum of one hour, their relationship-led care model sees clients and CAREGivers matched based on hobbies and interests, so there is always something in common.
Mark says: “It’s a fantastic job to do. The training we get is second to none, we know how to deal and respond to every eventuality, emotionally, physically and practically. It’s that support that makes what I do possible. It’s more than caring for someone and it’s more than job satisfaction. What you feel at the end of each day, knowing you’ve made someone feel at ease, treated them with dignity and improved their quality of life in some small way; that’s a privilege. That’s why this is me now for life, I’ll do this job until I’m no longer able to, why would I want to stop?.”