Taking care of someone with debilitating illness is usually a tough job for family members, and the frustration and pain double for those whose member’s infirmity results from aging process.
As difficult as this may be, families are often compelled to stand by their own at this time of need, which is known to professional care givers as the Third Age. Everyone aspires to live a graceful post-60 years to end of lifetime, devoid of ill health but if it happens, then they expect family members to rally to reduce the pain and distress until the last breath is taken.
Before that happens, families may decide to ask a member to volunteer to be the care giver while the rest of them fund the whole operation or, as it is beginning to look, hire professional care givers to take the load off them to enable them go about their busy schedules.
These care givers, whether family or professional, who do the job for others to live normal lives, usually go unsung for whatever reason.
It does not have to be so, said the Chief Executive Officer of Beachmore Homecare, Mrs. Florence Olofinjana, whose firm decided to recognise and celebrate one of its own, Miss. Oluwaferomi, as the ‘Best Staff of the Year’ 2016.
The acknowledgement of the staff’s prowess was done in a unique way because it took place at the home of a client, Mrs. Balogun, who attended the celebration, all dressed up, looking strong and radiant.
Her husband, Deacon David Balogun, who was obviously impressed by the care given to his wife, testified to the competence of the Beachmore staff. They had one before her, he said but that the former one did not meet the mark; she pretended to be a good staff when people were around but shirked her job once she was alone with her ward. But Miss. Oluwaferomi did her job consciously, and that she even had to cut short her 10-day holiday, after spending only a day off, because they needed her back.
According to Olofinjana, it was difficult to find a good and dedicated staff and that it was crucial to celebrate them when they performed well. The company could have gone to present gifts at an old people’s home but they chose to honour an outstanding care giver.
Olofinjana conceived the idea of taking care of people in their third age when after she returned from the UK where she worked in that capacity.
“At the age of 35, I found myself living in the UK, my husband was in school to study to become a medical doctor, and I needed to work.” But back home she was a school teacher, having studied Agric Economics in the university.
So, in the UK, she decided to train as Health and Social Care Assistant. She got employed thereafter and received more training in related aspects of the job. She went further on the job and trained in many areas of care giving with support from her Head of Homes, Miss Julia, who was her mentor.
After five years, she needed to return to Nigeria with her husband who had completed his education. “I had to resign from that organisation and the organisation I am running now is actually named after the one in England, with permission from the Head of Homes.”
Of all the skills she acquired, the one that caught her fancy was the ability to advocate for vulnerable people and in this area, she found herself naturally safeguarding vulnerable adults.
When she arrived Nigeria, she took up employment as a social care manager at a firm in Lagos where she spent about eight months before being inspired to establish her own practice, which she described as ‘domiciliary home care social practice’.
The job comes with its own challenges in terms of remuneration; “sometimes I’m paid, other times I’m not and all that. It’s being a kind of mixed grill.”
She started her practice on January 16, 2004 and the lawyer that did the registration worked almost for free because she too was moved with passion. “We kicked off like that and my husband and children have been very supportive.”
The practice has been growing since then with 12-plus clients in addition to two charity clients from the church and from the secular society. Most of the clients came through referrals from very satisfied clients.
Olofinjana also believes in staff training and this is the reason she takes school leavers into her fold and train them to become good care givers. “They go through some basic theoretical training; I have a model with which I was tutored in England. They also go through practical training for some weeks with permission from clients.
Prospective care givers are well-screened, complete with guarantors and background checks; affidavit, police report and that she conducts face to face appraisal checks on them. “I take a little step to know who they are, looking back at the way I was handled in England.”
Training the staff, she said was also a way of solving societal problem of joblessness among Nigerian youth. “Most youth in Nigeria feel that this is a dirty job but I show them how I rose doing it and how it turns disability to ability; that is how I use it to encourage the youth and at the same time meet the needs of the elderly. So, I see myself helping to bridge the gap between the ages of life.”
In this line of work, it is not all about bed of roses, so to speak, but sometimes the sick beds have thorns. There are two basic challenges, Olofinjana said she had experienced so far and these are sabotage through poaching by clients, some of whom do not have the means to pay and they resort to cutting corners. The second challenge, she said was low level of awareness of the need for professional care giving.
A guest, Prince Julius Adegboye, who presented the award, said there was need for every employee to do something extra in addition to their task because it helps during their evaluation. He urged them to do something extra at the job without being asked.
The awardee, Miss. Oluwaferomi went home with a large cheque, a plaque and other items.