Why I love working at Dorincourt

I've always been interested in human behaviour. At University I studied psychology and my Masters was in cognitive neuroscience, and I also went travelling for a year around Asia. I love working with people and travelling, so I decided to apply for a job as cabin crew and I got a job with British Airways.

Ally at plane door

Every day is different, you meet some really interesting people with really varied stories - people going to visit new family members for the first time, people who have saved up for their first ever holiday. The crew is also different every day so you have to make connections really quickly to work well as a team.

When I was doing my Masters I did a 12 week placement at a neuro rehabilitation centre and I got to experience clinical psychology in action. So when I was furloughed in March 2020 I decided to go back to my psychology routes and become a support worker in a neuro rehab centre.  I applied to QEF and now work with residents at Dorincourt - QEF’s Independent Living Service and I love it - I've become so attached to the residents.

As I am a bank worker I can organise my shifts to suit my life. Originally I was doing 5 mornings a week, helping to get people up, have breakfast, do an activity and helping them get to lunch - and then I would go home.  But I realised I was actually missing all the quality free time and activities they do in the afternoons, so now I do 2 long days and a short day and get to do all the activities and be there during their free time. I really enjoy playing bingo and helping people communicate with their families.  We also love playing boccia, which is a bit like bowls - it can get really competitive!   I love making sure that the residents have a good quality of life and there are lots of activities, as they are locked down like the rest of us. It really is wonderful. I also really enjoy working with the staff at Dorincourt - it’s a long day with other people and it's really important to build connections.  I'm really not a morning person so anything that gets me out of bed at 6:00am to start work at 7.15 must be something special!

I never know which area of Dorincourt I'm going to be working in, so I get to see different residents each time I go in. Because of the pandemic, residents are in separate groups, so I will work with a group of 12 people one day and then with a different group the next day – this makes it really varied.

Residents have different skills and abilities, so for those that are more able and are practising their independence skills,  I spend time with them just chatting and observing to make sure they are doing things safely; so they're cooking their meals by themselves, doing their ironing and I just watched and keep them company.  But others need much more or even everything doing for them, so I help get them out of bed, get dressed, have their breakfast etc.

I always assume people have capacity to understand what I’m saying and talk to people in that manner, it’s really important not to make assumptions and patronise anyone. Even people who are non-verbal have ways to have conversations with you and there may be a list of questions that they like to be asked each morning, you just need to get to know each person as an individual.

Before I started working at Dorincourt there were a few things that I was concerned about. I was worried that I wouldn't be able to understand what people were saying, but it’s amazing how you can have such a massive conversation with someone that can only say 'yes' and 'no' using lots of actions - we have such a laugh and a joke.  Other members of staff showed me some simple easy ways to communicate and after just a couple of months I felt really comfortable. Plus residents will also come and say 'hi' and make a point of getting to know me, and introduce the more shy residents.  Residents all want to talk with you and have a laugh and I love all the connections and friendships they have with each other and how they want to share the gossip.

I was also worried about the personal care side of the role, as I'd never showered someone else or provided care for anyone else other than children, but now is just part of the morning routine.  There is lots of dignity and privacy involved and we have different songs for brushing teeth, different songs for the shower and different songs for getting dressed - it's just the part of the normal day and I don’t even think of it as work. I got over any embarrassment within a couple of days.  The fun bit is all the other activities that we get to do together. 

It’s really surprised me how much I connected with individuals and how easy and fun it is. Everyone has their own character and even if they have limited mobility they still have their own interests. One of the residents has his own DJ equipment, so you can go in and sit and chat with him and he plays your favourite songs.  I also enjoy supporting residents with the different exercises they've been asked to do during their therapy sessions. Being able to help people do their stretches in the morning helps to avoid their muscles getting tense.  If they need to practice their walking, we can help them into a walker and go into the large flexi space where we play their own CD’s and turn on the disco lights, so its lots of fun doing their exercises.

I've just found out that I am still furloughed from BA until April 2021, so I am able to commit to QEF for longer. I will stay on the bank list for QEF so I will always be on standby for whatever they need. When flights start again, there isn't a need for me to quarantine and I am able to carry out my duties safely, I will continue working with QEF, as I often get three or four days off between long flights and I would definitely be able to come back and work with everybody again.