Kirsty (PA): My first contact with Susan was when I heard from a mutual friend that she was looking for someone to do a couple of hours cleaning. That was 3 years ago and I am still here, but I am now a PA doing a variety of tasks to assist her to live her life. I had always worked full time until a back injury, coinciding with illness in the wider family, resulted in my having to stop work for a while as the situation took its toll. When I recovered I took a job in a hotel kitchen. I enjoyed the physical side of the job and I just wanted to get back into the world of work. When I started the cleaning work with Susan we got on from the beginning and we enjoyed each other’s company. When Susan’s health began to deteriorate more support was required and although she already had council carers, she asked me if I would be prepared to take on a wider PA role which I happily agreed to. I had supported my family through a difficult period of illness which had made me realise what I was capable of. Another important factor was that we had got to know each other well and had built a trusting relationship. In the past Susan had had some problems with one of the council carers who she felt had taken advantage of her and so having a trusting relationship with those who supported her was of the utmost importance.
Susan (PA employer): I first moved to the East Neuk of Fife 20 years ago to take up a job in the hospitality industry, fell in love with the area and I have lived here ever since. I have a number of illnesses, but I was able to continue to work part time. However the Job Centre put undue pressure on me to increase my hours to full time and I found this impossible, so sadly I had to give up work 13 years ago. I started receiving support from council care workers, but they were not able to give me the support that I needed. I take a long time to get up in the morning and they simply did not have the time to support me with all the tasks required. Also I have very particular dietary requirements, yet microwave meals were the only option. Had I allowed this to continue it would have been significantly detrimental to my health.
Kirsty: I start the day with Susan by supporting her with personal tasks. Although a council carer comes in earlier in the morning to undertake some basic tasks, Susan tends to stay in bed until I arrive as I have the time to support her to get up and dressed in a relaxed atmosphere, with her favourite incense burning, at her pace and with a lot of chat in between! I then do some general household tasks, bill paying and meal preparation. Due to Susan’s very specific dietary needs I make sure that particular ingredients are bought and that all meals are freshly prepared. Every so often I batch cook for the freezer so that Susan is never short of the meals she needs. I am very conscious of food hygiene requirements and as both Susan and I have worked in kitchens, we are pretty fussy in that regard! Some days we might go out shopping, a trip to one of the other villages or just down to the local harbour area.
Susan: Having a PA has made such a positive impact on my life. Kirsty is so considerate and thoughtful. She has reorganised the house to make everything I need so much easier for me to reach and there are so many things that she does that may seem insignificant to others, but are so helpful to me, e.g. I have a weak wrist and she never fills the kettle more than she knows I will be able to lift. She makes up salad in individual little tubs so that I can have a healthy snack any time I want. Before she leaves she makes sure that drinks, snacks, medications etc, are all at my bedside as I can’t get up during the night and she lays out all the things, in order, that I will need for the evening and bedtime. She anticipates what I need because she knows me so well, but she never ‘takes over.’ In fact everyone should have a ‘Kirsty’!
Kirsty: My favourite part of the job is being able to contribute positively to Susan’s life and we genuinely enjoy each other’s company. We are similar in nature and I am sure that helps. I have some caring responsibilities for my new grandson and Susan is very considerate of that. The only down side of the job is the hour and a half journey to-and-from work, but that is a consequence of rural living and on the plus side it gives me some time to myself each day!
Susan: The local community here is very supportive too. I have good neighbours, the local shopkeepers are very helpful and the local pub down at the harbour has offered to cook meals to my specification and deliver them if I am ever stuck. I am a member of the board of the East Neuk Recovery Group Initiative (ENeRGI) which offers a range of supports to people in Fife and, health permitting, I hope to become more involved. Having a PA has lifted a weight off my shoulders. I have a good life and it’s important to me that I give something back.
Kirsty: To be effective you have to give something of yourself to the job so you need to think about how much you feel you can commit. However it can be worth it!