In the UK, there are currently over 7 million registered care workers. A large proportion of these are support workers, individuals who assist individuals in their daily activities and give practical and emotional support. Support workers care for individuals who are potentially less able to carry out tasks of daily living on their own, either through illness, disability or vulnerability. The role of being a support worker is a powerful one, whereby care recipients are allowed to be empowered through the help of another individual. Support workers often care for those with disabilities, learning difficulties, dementia, frailty, post-operative care and they also help elderly individuals who are widowed or less able to complete daily tasks on their own. In this article, we’re going to highlight the differences in support worker roles in the individuals home environment and within a care home setting.
The provision of care a support worker gives is dependent on the setting they’re in, but the ethos is the same: to empower individuals and make their lives as easy as possible by providing care and helping in everyday tasks. Some of the most fundamental tasks support workers undertake including washing and cleaning their clients, administering basic health care and sanitation and also conforming to government regulations and legislation around care standards. However, support workers also take basic physiological measurements like weight, observation, heart rate and their temperature to feedback to senior healthcare professionals. Furthermore, as the support worker is often around the client, a care relationship can be developed which allows a sense of ‘knowing’ the individual, something which personalises care further, but is also vital in the early treatment of health complications. As the support worker spends a large deal of time with the client, the worker begins to understand ‘normal’ for the client, especially with long term conditions, and thus can alert other healthcare members to deterioration in their health or anomalies in basic readings.
In a home setting, the provision of care may be much more centred around completing and aiding in household tasks. For example, in those with health conditions, this could be co-ordinating care, managing prescriptions, liaising with hospital staff to arrange travel, and even overseeing medicine adherence to ensure proper treatment. But the role of a support worker is not purely health-centric – lots of other tasks we take for granted like paying bills, cooking food, preparing meals for the week and even performing menial household cleaning may all fit in with the remit of the support worker. One of the most fulfilling parts of this role is the ability to assist individuals with their hobbies and interests, something they may have been unable to do when they were on their own or without proper care. This is vital to improving the care recipient’s mental wellbeing, and often an engagement of the support worker in the client’s interests leads to great rapport and a personal relationship.
In a care setting, the support worker may have a more hands-on role in the everyday tasks not covered by nurses. For example, this may include helping clients to get active within the care home, facilitating interaction and setting of activities to be completed, and also to help with their own personal ambitions or projects they want to work on. For example, this may be a good time to aid with hobbies and personal interests. If the care home is an assisted living facility, this may include helping with the tasks and facilities available within their room or apartment. This could be cooking, cleaning, budgeting money and aiding in mobility; although some basic health care knowledge and functionality is required, this may be attenuated in the presence of a dedicated nursing team. Furthermore, the support worker may liaise with the family of the client, as well as keeping up to date with regulation and reports which are needed to ensure full compliance of care within the facility.
Although there are slight differences in the roles, there are some constants in the requirements of a support worker; empathy, patience, ambition, organisational skills and compassion. In a role so important for the empowerment of another person, the client must be able to feel comfortable, at ease and trust their support worker. Having an ability to keep calm, deal with pressure in stressful situations and have a good working manner are vital. Crucially, having a sound emotional wellbeing is very important, as distressing and upsetting situations can be encountered when dealing with vulnerable individuals. However, this can be one of the most fulfilling careers when a good personal relationship is developed with a client and you can see the real world impact your assistance has on their quality of life