Jane Reynolds, a Senior Nursing Care Assistant at John Wills House care home in Bristol, recently won End of Life Carer at the Care and Support West Awards. She then went on to win the same category at the Great British Care Awards in the South West region and now goes through to the National Finals in March 2020. Here Jane shares how the death of her mother inspired her to become a carer and talks about her experiences of providing end of life care.
“Both my parents died when I was young. When mum became ill she wanted to come home to die. I was working as a shop assistant and I didn’t know anything about caring for somebody. It was hard. I had no one to go to ask questions and there was nobody to give me the answers I wanted. Afterwards I thought how things could’ve been handled so much better for my mum and me.
“After she died, I knew two things: I knew that I wanted to care for people and I knew I could use what I’d experienced to help make a difference to others. For me now, looking back, I think it’s because of mum that I am able do the job I love and I’ll be forever grateful to her.
Being an end of life carer…
“I’ve worked at John Wills House since it opened and in that time it’s gone from being a traditional nursing home to one being split into different units, including rehabilitation, private nursing beds and end of life care.
“I was asked if I could do end of life care and I just love it. I can’t explain it to you, but there’s just something in me. I find I can ask the difficult questions and it’s not just about looking after the residents – you also look after the families as well.
“No matter how stiff your lip is, if a family is crying, you cry with them. They need to know that you’re caring and genuinely giving your best to their parent or loved one. Equally, the resident needs to see you giving your best to their family. No matter how old their children are – they might be in their 60s or 70s – it is still that resident’s little boy or girl.
On winning her awards…
“My Care Home Manager, Wendy Leaman showed me the letter she wrote when I was nominated for the award and I just cried. I know I do a good job, but for Wendy to write what she wrote and to know that is how she felt, was lovely. For me that was enough. But then to go to the awards ceremony. I didn’t think I would win in million years and then to do it not once, but twice – it was massive shock.
“And now there’s a national final next year. I don’t understand why they picked me. I’m just me. I come to work to do the job I love, do best I can do and go home to my family. That’s it. I’m a ‘what you see is what you get’ person. I’m just lucky, I think.
Loving what she does…
“It’s easier to ask me what I don’t enjoy about my job – the answer would be it’s nothing. It’s ridiculous, but true. I’ve got a very supportive husband, two lovely boys and I get to do a job I love. I’m never going to be rich, but in own little tin-pot way, I’m a millionaire. I’m happy as Larry.”
“There’s so many people who need help – not just end of life. We don’t know what we’ll need when we’re older. Nobody wants to come into a care home and we don’t plan for that. We plan to retire, travel with our partners and enjoy life. I just hope that whoever looks after me has a cheeky story, a cheeky grin and washes my bum with a smile on their face.”
John Wills House is run by Bristol-based charity, The St Monica Trust and offers respite and rehabilitation services, specialist care for those who are living with dementia and also for those with general nursing needs. For more information go to www.stmonicatrust.org.uk or email firstname.lastname@example.org