A highlight is seeing how well clients do with a little help
There are certain professions where saving lives is an everyday occurrence; paramedics, doctors, fire fighters. The home care support worker is not normally one of them. That's why it came as a wonderful surprise for Northland Regional Manager Sandy Knight, to receive a kindly written letter from a client's daughter about home help hero, support worker Barry Elmiger.
'I feel compelled to put pen to paper...' started the client's daughter Jenny. 'I found Barry to be particularly pleasant and very committed to improving the quality of life my parents experienced. His attention to detail was very reassuring and there was nothing he wouldn't do when asked. My parents felt safe in his hands.' Great qualities shared across much of Access' workforce. However it was the next few lines that set Barry apart, 'Recently while Barry was supervising my father, my mother returned from seeing her doctor, only to collapse in severe pain. Barry noted she looked pale, grey and sweaty and without hesitation phoned the ambulance suspecting she was having a heart attack. It transpired that my mother had indeed suffered a heart attack and I honestly believe that had Barry not been there when all this unfolded, and handled the situation in the way that he did, my mother would not be with us today.' Jenny further commended Barry for refusing to leave her father long after his shift had ended. 'Over the five weeks that followed Barry went out of his way to assist me and my father, often staying long after he was required to ensure my father was not left alone.'
Veteran health worker Barry is humble about his heroics. 'I just did what you'd naturally do. My approach is to always look after other people how I would expect my own mum and dad to be treated.'
A similar case to many others in the profession, it was his grandmother that inspired his caring nature. 'She lived to 105 but I vividly remember her teaching me practical skills like cooking and sewing'. Having worked in rest homes and Rotorua Hospital in a career spanning over 30 years Barry, who has 12 regular clients in their 80s and 90s, is no stranger to crises. 'I once had to perform CPR on a client. Fortunately due to prior training I've developed a useful set of skills. On another occasion I was assisting a man who had mental illness. He suddenly turned violent towards me, taking out a lot of his frustrations, and kicked me in the privates. I like to think I'm strong enough to get over that', he says with a smile.
Barry highlights how care work is not walk in the park. Often each day can present a whole new set of unforeseen challenges, however, 'there is a great deal of job satisfaction. The hours can be reasonable and for me it fits in with family. But the real highlight is seeing how well clients do with a little help. The more they do themselves though, the better, as they really appreciate the independence.' And that is the ultimate aim of the role, helping people to remain independent as long as possible. In that respect every single support worker is a humble hero.