Celebrating and playing music

Papillon supports the care sector and here’s why

One of the highlights of our work is getting to meet, and experience first-hand, extraordinary people doing extraordinary things. Our job is relatively easy. We are, essentially, storytellers. We get to tell great stories about these people and showcase their brilliance – they are the ones caring day to day for those that the majority of us barely think about outside of our immediate circle of family and friends.

Even before Covid-19 wreaked havoc, the care sector was largely on its knees. Financially, adult social care was on the brink of collapse with a funding gap prediction of £4.2 bn by 2022. Now, amidst this brutal pandemic, I don’t think anyone has attempted to do the calculations as yet. Reputationally, the care sector was far from rosy. With a typical tabloid narrative that vilified every care-home owner and carer in its strategy to print only the most shocking headlines and footage, it’s a wonder that any of us would wish to see our nearest and dearest spend a moment in these homes. Those that commit despicable acts of cruelty and negligence deserve everything they get. But the many that are true heroes, pre and post global pandemic, don’t deserve to be tarred with the same brush.

Our narrative tells a very different story. It is made up of hundreds of very special moments that are brought to our attention every day in the lives of our carers, our residents and their families. It’s a story that shows the true meaning of care. The slightest detail, the gentle understanding smiles and the reassuring touches.  The carers that devote long, long hours to bring comfort to sometimes bewildered residents and often traumatised families. It tells the truth about the training and experience required to provide care and make such an important impact on a physically/mentally challenged person or a grieving family. It shows the fun and frivolity found in an afternoon activity and the pleasure in a morning stroll on foot, frame or wheels. It shows young apprentices beaming with pride when they gain an accolade and teams coming together to share all those moments. Then there are the sad times. The times when someone dear to them all passes. Yet somehow, they become a celebration of life and meaning. They may be 97 years old with dementia and legs that no longer support, but they are someone’s son, daughter, father, mother, a plumber, a doctor, a civil engineer – and they mattered.

For me, I have earned something more profound than the good feeling and the privilege you feel when you’re working for such incredible people. I have actually started to come to terms with my real and often disturbing phobia of death. From a very young child I used to wake up in fear of my mum or my dog disappearing for ever (I sincerely hope my sister isn’t reading this). The thought of death – anyone’s death – was very traumatic for me. Being around end of life specialist care homes, talking to those at the coalface and writing about the definition of a ‘good death’ has brought immense comfort. It’s also made me understand that our culture is possibly one of the most repressed of all when it comes to dying, and that is not a good thing. There is work to be done around this and I’d like to throw my cap in the ring.

This killer disease has put care homes in the spotlight once more and for once the tabloid headlines are aligned with those of the broadsheets and the mood of the nation. We are getting column inches for our stories and minutes on airwaves and television, not just to rant for more pay or PPE (which would be totally justified), but to show what we’ve always seen because it’s always been there, astonishing acts of humanity, bravery, skill and compassion.

Ironically, in years to come, Covid-19 might have done one good thing for the sector. That is, of course, if we all make sure we keep the real narrative at the forefront of people’s minds.

Our job, therefore, is simple. We must continue to do as much as we can to keep telling the true stories in print, online, on air. And, for now, we’re enjoying the ease as editors and TV planners are keen to tell them too. Far from constant criticism of the sector we are seeing a groundswell of empathy and long-overdue respect for those that do, in my opinion, the greatest job of all.

Written by Katie Whirledge. If you would like to speak to Katie about your care home setting please email kt@papillonpr.co.uk.