Real Lives

It’s never too late to care

Carmalita receiving her award (l)

Carmalita Hardman – Chef to Support Worker

Each month we profile a care professional who has come into the sector after a career change and who demonstrates that it really is never too late to care!  This month we meet Carmalita Hardman from Making Space who previously worked as a chef.

When chef Carmalita Hardman’s mother became ill, she didn’t hesitate to give up work and care for her at home.

Carmalita remained a full-time carer for her mother until she sadly passed away four years later. And, at the age of 54 and having spent her whole career as a chef, Carmalita had no idea how she would return to work. So when a friend told her about an opportunity to work as a support worker with adult health and social care charity Making Space, Carmalita jumped at the chance.

“You think that when you get to that age, that’s it,” says Carmalita. “My whole career – 40 years – had been as a chef, and you don’t think that you’re going to have to change career when you get to my age.

“But Making Space gave me that opportunity. There was no discrimination because of my age. After the interview, they gave me lots of training, and at 58 I’m working full-time on a permanent contract in a completely new career. I’m doing new qualifications and learning something new every day.”

Carmalita is a support worker at Greengate House, a residential care home in St Helen’s, Merseyside. She supports the residents –aged between 30 and into their 70s – to live independently, by helping them to take care of personal hygiene, keep their rooms tidy, eat healthily and take any medication they may need.

And, although it’s a far cry from cooking for the Queen – just one of Carmalita’s many highlights in her former career – there are, she says, a lot of similarities.

“Whether you’re cooking or helping someone to brush their teeth, it’s all about caring” she says simply. “When you make a meal, the overall reasoning behind it is to make sure that everyone enjoys that meal, so you do the best you can to find the best ingredients, to prepare the food, to make it taste and look good.

“That’s what I do when I’m with the residents. I want to give my best to them and make sure they get the best support. I want them to have good experiences in whatever they’re doing, whether it’s tasting food, going for a walk and enjoying the fresh air, or the feeling of independence they get by doing things for themselves.

“When I was a chef I used to love seeing people eating and enjoying the food I’d prepared. Now, my reward is knowing people are getting the best support they can.”

Although Carmalita may be happy with the rewards of her role, Cheshire College-South & West, where she is studying for an apprenticeship, decided to give her a little extra recognition in the form of their Care Apprentice of the Year award.

“I learn with the college around my hours at work,” explains Carmalita. “I do an hour every day, I’ll come in early if I’m on a late shift and stay late if I’m on an early. The tutors are also very helpful, and they’ll come to see me, call me or give me feedback online.

“When I first started training and taking maths and English exams again I was convinced I’d fail, but when I got into it, it all came back to me. I was so happy to get the apprentice award, but I think the residents were even happier! I brought it in to show them, and they were so proud. That makes me feel good and I know that I’m doing a good job.”

Caroline Anders, the accommodation manager at Greengate House, is not surprised Carmalita is an award winner. “Lita will always go that extra mile to provide the correct support to residents and nothing is ever too much trouble,” she says.

“She is very thorough within the workplace and always puts residents’ choices and preferences first. We are all very proud of her.”

As for changing career later in life, Carmalita has only one thing to say: “Go for it!

“Don’t hesitate, go and speak to somebody and get advice and just do it. You’re never too old and it’s never too late. I’m proof it can be done, and look at me, I’m happy as Larry!”

 

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