It’s 5:30 AM. For a lot of people, this is a very normal time to have to wake up for work. Not me though. The way I see it, five thirty in the morning is quite literally the middle of the night. I snooze my alarm a good three or four times, pushing myself for time to the absolute maximum until, eventually, i have no other choice. I get up, chuck my uniform on (which is sometimes still damp from washing it the night before), grab an Oat So Simple porridge bar and munch on it in the car.
Despite it being August, I’ve got the heating ramped up in my car because, as I said, it’s the middle of the f*cking night and therefore a little cold. There’s a podcast playing…it’s something about Jeffrey Epstein today. My mind focuses in and out of it, as most of my porridge energy has to be spent on staying awake to drive a car.
Google Maps informs me that it’s a 22 minute commute to my first client. Not bad, considering some clients live a hefty 45 minutes away from me. I arrive at the client’s house with a couple of minutes to spare. Fabulous – I need those crucial minutes to do a lap around the neighbourhood, in search of a parking space. The best choice I’ve got is a parallel park. Sh*t. Definitely not a talent of mine, but by this point it’s still only 6:28 in the morning, and so the chance of getting an audience whilst I attempt to park is low.
After managing to squeeze my little Toyota Aygo in between two cars, I get my gloves, face mask and apron on and head towards the old lady’s front door. I fumble with the key safe, even with short nails, the numbers are difficult to shift. I remember her key safe code on the first try, grab her key and make my way in.
“Morning Mary!” I say. I’ve used a made-up name of course, for confidentiality reasons, but then again, who even are you if you don’t know at least one grandma named Mary? It’s a classic. I put on a huge smile, although with my face mask and her deteriorating sight, she can’t see that I’m flashing my pearly whites. All she can see is the dark circles around my eyes. Lovely.
Very slowly, she sits up in bed. A few bones creak. I thought I was stiff this morning. “Good morning Geraldine my love.” Bless her, she’s forgotten my name again. At least she got the first letter right. We make small talk about the weather until she’s ready to stand up. More bones creak. “Ooomphtt.” Being old sounds painful. She grabs hold of her Zimmer frame, and heads to the bathroom whilst I follow behind her, ready to stop her falling backwards. She doesn’t, thank God.
I hold her night dress just above her hips so that she can plonk herself on the toilet. “I’ve been awake for hours!” she moans. The poor woman struggles to sleep most nights.
“Again?” I ask, turning the tap on at the sink. “What time did you fall asleep?”
She shrugs and gives me a cheeky grin. After 4 years, 11 months and 6 days of waiting, a hint of hot water finally starts to come through the tap. I lift her night dress above her head. “I love this dress. You look so elegant in it – you look like an angel,” I giggle. She does. This lady is tall and slim, something I doubt I’ll be when I’m 92 years young. Her nighty is white, with a low cut back and a lace detailing at the front, falling all the way down to just above her ankles.
“Really? You think so?” she says in a high-pitched voice. I nod as I gently rub her back with a hot, soapy flannel. “Oh, duck!” She calls me this, I have no idea why, but it’s the sweetest nickname I’ve ever been given. “What a lovely way to start my morning. Just right,” she smiles. And there it is. That warm, fuzzy feeling beneath my chest. The knowing that I’ve put a smile on someone’s face today and it’s not even 7am yet. That’s why it was possible for me to roll out of bed at such an ungodly hour.
Once she’s washed and dressed, I make her a cup of tea; the first of about 17 cuppas I’ll be making today. Some marmalade toast is her choice of breakfast, and for a side dish, there’s a whole array of different shaped, sized and coloured pills to be taken. Despite this being like the 20th time of me doing her morning routine, I still leaf through her paperwork to be absolutely sure I’ve got the right meds.
They’ve all got stupidly long names…Bumetanide? Atorvastatin? How you’re supposed to pronounce those, or spell them without the assistance of Google, is beyond me. Luckily, I have to do neither of those things. I just have to get the dosage right…is it just one 5mg tablet? Or two? Or one 5mg and one 10mg tablet? Do I have to dissolve it in water first? Is it to be taken before or after food? We get there in the end, anyway.
Once I’ve signed for the medication and written up my notes, it’s on to the next client. I continue on like this until 1:30PM, where everyone has been washed, dressed, and fed lunch and no longer need me until the tea time calls. If my maths is correct, that’s 7 hours of non-stop work. Those 7 hours feel like 3 hours most days: I’ve never known a job to be as rewarding as this one.
I’m constantly getting offered fresh fruit grown in their garden, or a slice of birthday cake from their 85th, or an ice lolly to cool me down when the weather is extra hawt. You’d think my job is looking after them, but sometimes it’s the other way around. They make sure I’ve eaten, and teach me all about the World Wars and their pasts.
One lady was almost in tears whilst expressing how grateful she was for me, when all I’d really done was have a chat and make her breakfast…it makes you appreciate the little things in life. One man I care for is blind, and very almost deaf, so when I talk to him, he likes to hold my hand, to feel that I’m really there, talking to him. It melts my heart every time he reaches for my hand – it makes me feel needed, when only a couple of months previously, I felt quite the opposite, sat on my arse, stuck at home in lockdown, making no real difference to the world.
Now, I’m a key worker. And it feels pretty bad ass.