She reveals: “My experience with everyone has been that if you’re positive and upbeat, people definitely respond. And lots of praise works well, too.”
Kiwi Karen was a cabin crew member with Air New Zealand for 32 years before becoming a self-employed live-in carer in the UK in 2007. She sees similarities in the two roles: “I was in the people business then and I still am now.”
She adds: “Both jobs are about people’s needs and requirements. And maybe this makes me ‘old school’, but if someone wants me to do something, I’ll do everything I possibly can to do it.”
A number of the people Karen has cared for – through the auspices of introduction agency Patricia White’s – have needed her help to cope with living with dementia. It’s a condition that requires patience and understanding.
“People can get very confused and think that a loved one who has passed away, perhaps even a spouse, is still alive. Trying to convince them otherwise is pointless and could be very upsetting for them. Instead I try to find a distraction to settle them and then we can move on.”
Whatever the health issues, Karen feels most people can benefit from a live-in carer “once they get used to it”. She says: “It can be a readjustment to begin with, but their meals are cooked for them, their clothes are washed, they’re clean, their house is tidy ¬– it all makes a big difference. Then, of course, there’s the social interaction and companionship. They say loneliness is one of the biggest problems for elderly people. And there’s no doubt in my mind that company feeds a person’s soul.”