Swapping nights in care homes for working one-to-one as an in-home Personal Assistant, Carol Robertson reflects on what she considers her most rewarding job to date.
After she left school, Carol Robertson enjoyed a varied career working across both hospitality, human resources, retail and security in Perthshire. Eventually, after meeting her now-husband, she moved to Aberdeen and tried her hand working in the care sector, working nightshift in a care home. Unfortunately, the home was soon was bought over and put under new management. “It wasn’t the same after that,” Carol says – and before long she was looking for other opportunities.
With her children grown up, Carol admits she had become weary of nightshifts. “I found that they were getting too much, especially at the weekend,” she says. “You start to miss being with your family – they’re coming in as you’re going out, and then at night you’re coming in as they’re going out.” That’s when she decided to go into one-to-one care.
Carol’s first job as a Personal Assistant (PA) was working with a young man with a brain injury – a job she’d keep for several years until her client secured funding to attend a specialist unit down south. Keen to remain in one-to-one care, but ideally in a single job as opposed to taking on several with limited hours, she spotted an opportunity to work for a client of Cornerstone SDS.
“Night shifts were getting too much, especially at the weekend. You start to miss being with your family – they’re coming in as you’re going out.”
“Working in the one-to-one environment has given me a lot more choice and flexibility in terms of when I work and who I work for,” says, Carol. “In the care homes, we’re only with people for short periods of time before we have to go away and tend to other things. You don’t always feel that you’ve got the time you want or need to spend with them. As a PA, though, I find it a lot more personal. You become attached, and you get to know your client(s) better.
To this end, Carol admits that her current client, Mary, has become an extension of her own family. “My kids are in their twenties,” says Carol, “and they both call her ‘granny’. Likewise, Mary will ask, ‘How are you grandchildren today?’ She’s like a second mum to me know. She’s really caring in that regard.”
In 2021, during the Storm Arwen, Mary temporarily moved in with Carol and her family. “There was nothing else we could do,” says Carol. “Her family live down south, and so we arranged for Mary to move into our spare room. She was with us for nearly two weeks while the damage from the storm was cleared.”
“What I love most about the work is getting to know the person and spending time with them – not just a half hour here and there, but really getting to know what they’re like.”
Earlier this year, Carol took Mary on a daytrip to St Andrews. She organised an outing on the beach – something Mary hadn’t done in years. “It brought a smile to her face, and I was happy that she was happy,” says Carol. “That’s worth a lot to me. Mary’s always ever so grateful when I take her out of the house. She really enjoys that.”
Although brought on by necessity, Carol reckons her decision to enter the care profession probably also had something to do with the fact that her mother was a nurse, and her subsequent desire to care for others in a similar way. “What I love most about the work is getting to know the person and spending time with them – not just a half hour here and there, but really getting to know what they’re like and letting them actually stay in their own home. Mary’s been in respite care, and she doesn’t like it at all. If it wasn’t for SDS, though, that’s where she’d be.
“If you get the right person, being a PA is a hugely rewarding career – not just for you but for the people you support, too.”