During the 5 years that I was at University, I had a total of about 18 different carers. Some were great, some were bad, and some were terrible.
The agencies weren’t bad at finding the right carer for me. They did find some great ones that I am still friends with to this day. But there were also some not so good ones.
The way it worked was the agency would find people that they thought were suitable for me based on my preferences. So I preferred people who were a similar age to me and who had a similar personality. It’s essential for us to get on well together as we would be spending a lot of time in each other’s company. I also preferred people that didn’t have a strong accent because with my hearing loss it would be harder to understand what they were saying.
The best carers were those who were a similar age to me, had a good sense of humour, were well organised, and were generally good at their job.
The carers I have the fondest memories of were the ones I could have a laugh with and had a rapport with. Those ones I could become friends with.
I had 2 excellent academic carers who were well organised, friendly people, and good at their job. Academic carers are the ones who took notes for me in lectures and helped me do my work. Although sometimes we did play each other on FIFA on the PlayStation which was fun. Work hard play hard!
In fact, I got on so well with one carer in particular that he worked with me throughout almost all of my undergraduate degree (about 3 years).
We had a similar sense of humour to each other and had similar interests like gaming and football, and there was good banter between us.
Usually, the carers didn’t work during the long 3 month summer holiday and I would just have to rely on my parents for care. But one year one of my live-in carers came to work at my home during the summer holiday. She lived in my house every other week, and it worked well. This gave me the chance to go into town more often or to the pub as I didn’t have to rely on my parents all the time. It helped to break up the long holiday which could otherwise have got a bit boring. It was also fun because we got on well and could have a laugh together.
Some of the young carers were perhaps a bit naïve even though they were generally good at caring for me. For example, there was one guy who was probably in his early 20s. He was a really nice guy, but like a typical young person in some respects. He was very untidy and often left the room a mess. My parents thought we had been burgled!
He also sometimes put towels on radiators to dry and burnt holes in them, which was not the wisest move. He never burned the flat down though so that’s a positive. But I liked him so I could overlook most of the mistakes.
The first day of University was very hectic. There were lots of new students who didn’t know what they were doing, myself included. I had a carer with me that day who was so overwhelmed that he left after one day. ONE DAY. I believe it was because he found it all too confusing not because I was so hard to work with that he couldn’t take it any more!
Every other carer I’ve had has lasted longer than that, so one day remains the record so far.
The live-in carers varied a lot on their suitability and how well I got on with them. Some were my age, and we had a good laugh. Some were my mum’s age, so they were not exactly clubbing material. I had one who was depressed and apparently would spend all day in bed while I was at uni. As time wore on, she spoke less and less, so she wasn’t good company. Another was fond of smoking cannabis with the other students while on duty.
If I didn’t get on with a particular carer the agency would find someone else. However, sometimes it felt like the agency wasn’t choosing people who were best suited for my preferences. It seemed like they were just randomly picking the first person that they came across.
For example, they chose some people who were about 60 odd years old, which is not really a good match considering the lifestyle of the average university student. Or they would pick someone who had a strong accent that I found difficult to understand.
Another memorable carer was a 54-year-old guy from Zimbabwe that did a decent job, but he worked at a glacial pace. It took him about 2 hours to get me up in the morning. So to be ready for the 8 AM bus I had to start getting up at 6 AM which wasn’t something I wanted to do every day. Eventually, we had to get someone else.
The worst carer I encountered had numerous faults: He was often drunk, he didn’t listen to me, he was usually in bed all day, he was a pervert towards women, and not least, he kept spending my money without my knowledge or consent on things like alcohol and other items. Hardly a model worker.
In fact, after I finished uni, we took him to the court about him spending my money without my knowledge. Unfortunately, he wasn’t convicted despite their being numerous occasions where he spent my money without my say so.
One of the most infuriating occasions with him was when I was about to go outside once. He said to me I need to put a jumper on before I go out, but as it was a sunny day I didn’t want to.
I said I would take the jumper with me, and if I needed it, I would put it on later. But the guy just would not listen to me. He tried to put the jumper on me anyway despite me repeatedly telling him I didn’t want it on.
I had to force myself back against my seat to stop him putting the jumper on me. He even had the audacity to say that I wasn’t thinking properly. I mean, seriously?! If anybody wasn’t thinking properly it was HIM.
It was his job to help me do what I wanted to do, NOT to make decisions for me.
We were both getting angry and he would not give up. So I then told him to phone up my dad so that my dad can tell him that I am capable of making my own decisions!
He did so, and my dad told him that it was up to me. So finally he relented, and we could at last go and catch the bus.
Talk about making a mountain out of a molehill. In fact, it wasn’t even a molehill, it was nothing. He made a mountain out of nothing.
He was a complete and utter arsehole.
And to make matters worse, I had to endure him for 6 weeks in a row because they couldn’t find anyone else. He was only meant to work for one week at a time.
Anyway, after him, we managed to find 2 carers who are great. They have been working with me for about 5 years now.
Advice for people who use agencies
- Be clear with the agency what type of person you want to care for you. This will help them to find the right person for you.
- Don’t be afraid of saying to the agency that you want someone else if you don’t get on with the carer that you have. There is no point sticking with someone that you don’t like or who is not doing a good job as you probably won’t be happy
- Choose an agency that is based locally to you so that they can come and keep an eye on the carers regularly. There was someone that used to do frequent spot checks with the first agency I used, which I think was a good idea as it could help to address any problems.
- Once you do find a good carer, try not to lose them as the best ones are not always easy to find. You could employ them privately, for example, which is what I have done with 2 carers that initially worked for an agency.
If you are going to use a care agency yourself I hope that my experiences give you an idea of what you might face. Most of the carers I had at University were good, but there were also a few bad eggs.
I think a good thing about using agencies is that they can always find a replacement for you if a carer doesn’t work out. You don’t have to find them yourself. But they do have their downsides too. Alternatively, you can employ the carers privately, which has its own pros and cons – but that’s for another blog post.
What are your experiences of using care agencies? Either at University or otherwise, I’d be interested to hear about them.