Home carer – Bonnie Huntley
‘I’ve laughed with people and I’ve cried with them, it’s like every job it has its highs and lows, but I have certainly had more highs than I have had lows and have some fantastic memories of some wonderful people I have cared for’.
Bonnie Huntley, Home carer.
You only have to switch on the television or read the national papers to see coverage on health and social care, the recruitment market and the difficulties there are with finding the right person for the right job. Many are changing their career path to gain employment or to suit their lifestyles. Avante Care & Support supports over 3,000 people across Kent and South East London and employs just under 2,000 people. Bonnie Huntley is one of the home care carers who has worked at Avante Care & Support for over 20 years and has seen how the home care service has changed over the years.
Bonnie joined Avante Care & Support (which was then known as Care at Home, KCHT) on 4th March 1995 as a home carer. Prior to this she worked at the paper mill in Sittingbourne whilst building up her own business as a green grocer in Sittingbourne. Bonnie built up a successful business which she then sold on and worked for a local fruit and veg supplier, until one day she decided she had seen enough of fruit and vegetables and needed a career change.
‘My father had been ill the year before and I had spent the last few weeks of his life caring for him which was a tough and upsetting time but something I wanted to do, to be there for him’, says Bonnie. ‘When my father passed I became bored with my current job and knew I needed a change’.
The Care at Home service was based at and provided through residential care home Court Regis in Sittingbourne which is still one of Avante Care & Support’s specialist dementia care homes today. The Care at Home service was an extra service provided by Court Regis for those not needing to move into residential care but requiring personal care or assistance with day to day tasks.
Bonnie joined the small team and helped build up the hours, providing a good care service to its clients. Through the years the service hours expanded and the care team did too.
“The main areas I covered were Lynstead, Teynham, Rodmersham and Sheerness, they were quite big areas with not a lot of carers to start with. I learnt so much from the Twilight Nurses who we worked with and I guess at the time we all just rolled our sleeves up and got on with the work”, says Bonnie.
Bonnie recalls how on some days the carers between them used to be able to provide personal care and cook a roast dinner for some of their clients, all in the allocated time slots throughout the day! “Things are very different now but there was one client in particular when I first started working within the care sector, who loved a roast dinner, so I used to visit her in the morning get her up out of bed, care for her, prepare breakfast and then peel some veg. I would then go off and visit another client, but whoever was popping back at lunchtime would then pop on the meat and spuds. The afternoon care visit would check the spuds turn on the veg and turn the meat, and then for the dinner visit the roast would be served, all this whilst caring for the client too! The lady used to be ever so happy and it was a real sense of achievement and team work. “
There are so many stories Bonnie has through her 20 year career of working as a home carer. ‘I’ve laughed with people and ’ve cried with them, it’s like every job – it has its highs and lows, but I have certainly had more highs than I have lows and have some fantastic memories of some wonderful people I have cared for’ said Bonnie.
There was one dear man who required a ceiling hoist but he had made it quite clear he wasn’t going to use it as he didn’t ‘trust the machinery’. So I thought how am I going to get round this? So I thought, I’ll get in it, I’ll show him that it’s fine to use! So in she got, with the help of a colleague, but much to Bonnie’s frustration the hoist decided to stop halfway through its manoeuvre leaving poor Bonnie dangling in mid-air! ‘See I told you said the dear man!’ Well that was it Bonnie and her colleague had to work out how to get out of the hoist whilst trying to convince the chap that it was a great piece of working machinery. Bonnie’s not sure how she got out of the hoist that day but one things for sure they all laughed about it for many years after.
Care practice has clearly changed over the last 20 years but laughter and a caring manner are still key attributes to providing good care.
Bonnie has recently been recognised and awarded by the organisation for her 20 years of service at Avante Care & Support and continues to work for the home care service. ‘I love my job and being able to assist our clients to stay living in their own homes. Most of my clients treat me as extended family, some even refer to me as another daughter. It’s tough at times there’s no denying that, but I wouldn’t change what I do’.
When asked what Bonnie likes to do in her spare time she said ‘I don’t have a lot of spare time really I have 9 grandchildren and 2 great grandchildren, they keep me busy and on my toes!
The care at home service is now known as Avante Care & Support and has over 200 carers, caring and supporting over 500 clients across Kent and South East London.
If you would like to know more about the homecare service or are considering caring as a career please call either our Maidstone office on 01622 351166 or our Erith office on 01322 344980.