The recent review of Rest Homes is clearly long overdue. Many see Rest Homes as a place where the elderly are simply sent to die. That’s a hospice. Rest Homes care for the elderly who are no longer able to care for themselves without assistance. In effect, they require the comparative care one would expect of a childcare facility. This is not an assertion that the elderly are children, but an affirmation that the care required is considerably more than those running Rest Homes for profit care to give.
I was discussing Rest Home care last night with a friend of mine who is a Carer at a Rest Home. During that conversation I realised that not once did she consider her job to simply consist of ‘wiping bums and nappies’, in fact, not once did she mention that as part of her role. Truly admirable.
The reason I raise that point is that key discussion around Rest Homes of late has been that Carers are essentially unskilled workers who wipe bums and change nappies for minimum wage. But for this Carer her job was about ensuring that the Residents that she cared for had all the things that they required – not simply those functional things such as food, cleanliness and medication – but also, that they were happy, that they were cared for in a way that didn’t demean them as human beings and that they trusted her. Legend.
I can accept that it is considered unskilled because it carries no ‘formal qualification’ but a formal qualification is not determinative of whether a job requires skills. A formal qualification is simply euro centric elitism that creates poverty by devaluing jobs that cut to the heart of society. I’ll admit that I’m guilty of jumping on the formal qualification train but I have not lost sight of the fact, that some of the most important roles in society are those that are devalued simply because the skill and expertise required is learnt through practical experience and not a textbook written by some intellectual who’ll be proved wrong or at least discredited in the next 5 years.
Carers do more than the gross generalisations placed on them by society. Of course there are residents in these facilities that need assistance with incontinence but to grossly generalise the work of a carer as simply fulfilling this task is not only to undermine the role of the Carer in a Rest Home but is also to attack the dignity of those residents in receipt of that care.
Jo Robertson you make me proud to be your friend!