I’m Monika Mikeskaite. I am a Support Worker and also Key Worker to one of the ladies we support.
Both of those roles are very honourable and I feel very proud to say that I am a Support Worker. I know what I do and I feel proud of myself, but I recently noticed that my family and friends, and people who have just met me also see it as a very honourable role, which feels very nice.
Before I joined McFarlane Trust, I said that I’m willing to learn but I don’t have much experience supporting someone with a learning disability. I had just finished my bachelor’s degree in psychology and I was looking for experience in the psychology field. I was struggling to get the jobs I was applying to because of the lack of practical experience. They were more looking for a personality instead of experience and they were very understanding. They told me they had previously hired someone with a psychology degree, but no experience who went on to be one of their best staff members.
The most important thing is that it gives me purpose. Before coming to McFarlane Trust, I was a stock taker for six years and it was a job where we used to go to a shop and count every single item and then leave and at the end of the day, I knew the stock take wasn’t even accurate, so I knew I was wasting my own time. Fair enough, I was getting paid for it, but I wasn’t doing anything useful. Whereas here, every time I go to bed, I feel like I achieved something. I helped someone and it’s the best feeling and it makes a difference to my personal life so that’s one of the most important reasons!
The other thing is that the people we support are extremely loving and they show emotions very freely. If we do something they appreciate or they like, then they hug us or they give us a compliment which is very nice and you could never get that in any kind of other job. Their emotions are extremely contagious and when people are smiling at you, you can’t help but smile back at them. It makes a difference every single day. When I first started, I had a day where I thought ‘I can’t believe that I’m actually getting paid to do a job like this’. It was a day where I was supporting a lady and I got a biscuit for her, and she was so extremely happy about it she had tears in her eyes and laughed away for five minutes. It was something so simple to give someone a biscuit with their tea but in that moment, there was not a single worry in her life showing on her face and in that moment, I didn’t have a single worry in my life as well. This is something that you can’t witness very often and something that I will never forget, and it keeps happening. Over these three years I get moments like this from time to time and it’s amazing.
Another thing is I truly respect my colleagues. The team here is very hard working and they don’t give up easy. Everyone I work with is very kind and supporting, they always keep going. Sometimes it’s quite hard and we support each other.
The management is also on another level. Compared to my previous job, I was scared of my manager whereas here, it’s a huge difference because all the management – the Services Manager, Lesley, the House Manager Heather, and my team leader Alison are very approachable. If I have any worries, I can go to them and be very honest and say ‘this is happening’. They always help me to get through stuff which I have never experienced previously in the workplace, which is amazing.
The other thing about the management is that they lead by example and this is the best compliment I could give to a leader. They always show us with their actions that they care about every individual and put 100% into helping them lead independent and enjoyable lives. Also they are very competent so they set high standards for everyone else, and they remind me of what is most important, which is that everyone disabled or not should be treated fairly and we are here to provide support that is highly person centred.
McFarlane Trust provides many opportunities to learn as well which I’m grateful for. I personally love to learn so every training day is the best for me. The training days are amazing. We learn about our job and also things that we can use in our personal lives as well so what else can we ask for? It’s great. The training has Health and Social Care SVQ qualifications as well as training on food and hygiene so it makes us much better practitioners as well.
It puts everything into perspective. We support ladies with Downs Syndrome and some of them have dementia. With the morning routine, we start at 8am, two staff members will begin with personal care first. Some ladies, especially those at the later stages of dementia need full support with everything from eating, taking medication, toileting, going for a shower. Then we move on to things we do every day to help them with their health needs, for example there are some exercises that we do every morning as part of the daily routine. The other thing we do is we clean the house, we organise everything and we cook. I think that is important for the ladies to enjoy a homemade meal every day. We try to make the house look very homely and cosy. The ladies who have dementia and other complex health needs are constantly looked after and attend regular appointments with health professionals. We work very closely with health professionals, learning disability nurses, and physiotherapists to make sure our service is providing good support.
Another thing is that we support individuals to see their families almost every day. When they come in we try to set them up with an activity they will enjoy as much as possible. If family members can’t get in that day, we have a wide variety of activities that are very person centred. We try to make sure that we have things that are suitable for dementia too like sensory touch. We keep trying different things too. One of our ladies used to hate walks but now she loves them, so we always keep persevering and trying new things. For our ladies with dementia who have come to a point where they can no longer communicate and tell us what they like or don’t like, we use a lot of teamwork and experience to assess what we can do to find a solution.
The other thing is that we do a lot of encouragement especially for things that we know are going to be good for them, such as going on a walk or eating more vegetables. We’ll wash the dishes after dinner and do some more activities to keep everyone engaged. We try to make the environment cosy and relaxing for bedtime. We support everyone into their pyjamas and sort their medication. At the end of the day, we have a sleepover. It is 24 hour care so one staff member will leave and the other will stay overnight. The next morning, the day starts again.
Family weren’t able to visit for a long time during the lockdowns so we tried to do what we could to support them and enable visits. In the summer time we put up a gazebo so that families could meet in the garden. When this wasn’t possible, we would arrange visits through the window. For situations when the ladies weren’t able to get out of bed so we would move the bed closer to the window so they could see their family and friends. We tried Zoom calls too. Now that families are able to visit more, we support them and give them privacy to spend time together and reconnect!
To be honest I wasn’t going to stay here for over three years. I thought because I’m getting experience here, I would stay here for a year and then move on to something else to learn something new, but it’s been a great job and not something you would want to leave!