‘Don’t look scruffy,’ my nan used to say. She swept her doorstep, ironed everything, and always looked immaculate.
She was so caring and wanted to make sure that everyone was well looked after. On Fridays she used to babysit and look after me and she, along with Grandad took me to football on Saturdays.
When nan was diagnosed with breast cancer in her late sixties, I moved in with her for a year so I could care for her.
Nan was struggling with the cleaning and the shopping; with the daily tasks she was so used to doing for herself. She wasn’t strong enough to lift a casserole out of the oven, and standing at the kitchen sink to do the washing up would wipe her out for a couple of hours.
Nan had looked after me and now it was my turn to look after her.
Shortly after I moved in with her, I left college. I had a couple of GCSEs and was studying for a sports qualification, but I never finished the course. I didn’t take school seriously enough and liked to play the class clown.
Looking after nan gave me a completely different purpose. Seeing the joy it brought her gave me a sense of fulfilment. It was so good to see her laughing and joking.
I thought it was one of the best things ever It was amazing, and I decided that caring was something I really wanted to do permanently.
When I was 18, I became a care assistant and straight away I thought: ‘this is it, this is for me.’ It was something I had a passion for, and I knew I needed to put my head down and learn, so I started taking in as much information as possible. I wanted to ensure that I was giving people the best possible care.
In 2013 I joined Bluebird Care as a Care Coordinator. At times I was still delivering care and I was able to have that engagement with the customers that I loved.
I’d often go to see Martha after work because she wouldn’t let the care assistant in. Martha had dementia and had lost her husband a couple of years before, she didn’t have any children and didn’t like people in her house, but she always let me in. When I was making tea she’d stand in the kitchen doorway, I think she liked the company.
On the sofa next to Martha there was a wedding photograph. Martha and her husband Reggie were standing side by side, under the archway of a church door. Every day I went to see her we talked about that same photograph, she told me how lovely Reggie looked on their wedding day, how handsome he was and how shiny his shoes were.
‘He was such a man of class,’ she’d say. ‘Even though he’s not here anymore he still loves me, I know he does.’ There was a smile on her face as she talked, I could see how happy it made her. Looking at Martha was like looking at my nan, I felt I made a difference to her life. And I knew I was on the right path.
In 2015 I won Care Coordinator of the Year in the Great British Care Awards. I was amazed and ecstatic, and proud to win, not just for myself but also for Bluebird Care and to show that we take coordination extremely seriously.
As my career progressed, I was promoted to Group Lead Coordinator, then Live-in Care Manager. Now I’m a Senior Manager.
I love my job; I have a real sense of excitement about it. As I progressed, I felt empowered, I felt that I was achieving something and that I was good at my job. I was striving to achieve more. That’s how I try to make others feel too. I want my team to have the same enthusiasm and drive for their job as I have. There are fantastic colleagues in Bluebird Care that you can chat to and have fun with. We are all one big family.
My passion is to show that being a care assistant is a fantastic career and to show people the importance of the role they are fulfilling. I want everyone to care for our customers the way I cared for my nan.
There are days when I can’t believe how far I’ve come. Now I’m in my thirties and a father of three. I have gone from being the naughty kid, telling jokes and being a cheeky chappy, to someone who’s in charge of more than 100 people and managing a service with an annual turnover of £4.8m. I still have relentless energy.
I feel so lucky in so many ways and I’m very proud of what I’ve achieved. Bluebird Care and the owners really believed in my potential, supported me, and gave me different opportunities to grow into the professional I am today. Norman and Claire really have been an inspiration to me throughout my Bluebird Care career.
Looking after my nan took me in a different direction. Sadly, she developed secondary breast cancer and passed away in 2019. I still miss her, we all do.
She’s often in my head when I’m working. Most days I wear a suit and tie, and maybe that’s because she used to tell me not to look scruffy.
I think she’d be extremely proud of what I’m doing now, and she’d be smiling from ear to ear.