For most people working with the same colleagues over a twenty year period is something of a rarity these days. Such is the case however, for a pair of Hamilton support workers who first started with their client Doreen in 1995.
Geraldine and Diane both started with client Doreen when Access was known by its founding name of Women's Division Federated Farmers, who established the homecare service we've come to encompass today. Back then 63 year old client Doreen suffered a high degree of immobility due to chronic progressive disease of the spine. 'I was more mobile back in those days and even had an adapted car,' says Doreen, now 83. 'I'd been able-bodied prior to 1990. Developing symptoms caused my doctor to send me to Australia for an MRI as the technology was not advanced enough here then.' Little did Doreen know that her two support workers contracted to provide assistance around the home would eventually become trusted and dependable carers supporting her fully two decades later. 'Now I count them as my rocks. They do everything for me,' says Doreen.
'Care was different back then, ' says support worker Diane. 'Much less strict. Young people straight out of high school were employed with little training but good willing minds and attitudes. The way we work has changed too - I started out using slide boards to transfer clients like Doreen, now she has a very simple but effective hoist and there's so much more training and guidance on procedures. She also has a powerchair to help with her mobility'
Both women are in a position to have seen not just the changes in the sector but changes in their client too. 'We've got to the stage where we know her so well we know what to look out for, what's different and what she needs,' says Diane. 'Being paralysed means Doreen struggles to see past her chest, so we do everything for her. But importantly we are keeping her in her home and that's so important to her. She has a lovely home which is a reflection of who she is.'
'I think back to when I first got her on my roster and how lucky I am,' says Diane's colleague Geraldine. 'She's such a lovely lady and it's not like going to work. Doreen never moans about her situation and yet always takes the time to listen and take an interest in other peoples' lives.'
'But after twenty years the one thing all three of us are aware of is the fact that Diane and I are getting older now. We are around the same age that Doreen was when she first became our client. I've had my hips done and will be having a shoulder reconstruction so our age is really starting to show. It's sad but the thing to remember is that we've developed a lasting bond of trust and friendship forged out of working so closely together. Eventually we may be the ones needing care, like Doreen, and will pass the baton to a younger generation to help look after us.'