Some time ago I overheard a conversation between a group of trainee carers on their induction week in which I heard them saying that they wouldn't be expected to clean in their placements. I made sure I wasn't going to choke on my orange juice before leaning over to join the conversation. As diplomatically as I could I made the observation that if the client did not employ a cleaner, and if it was just the client and the carer living in the house, the carer would most definitely be responsible for maintaining a certain standard of cleanliness and hygiene.
As a relief carer and rapid responder, I go into a lot of placements and have the privilege and pleasure of meeting many wonderful people, both clients and carers. This company is truly blessed with many dedicated carers. I get to learn something new from each experience that I can add to my 'carer toolkit’.
However, I do feel the need to go into a bit more detail about our role as professional carers. It's lovely being a carer and to be able to bring meaning and a sense of security to a client and to their families. However, there are also practical things we just simply have to do, and cleaning is one of them. I can count on one hand (actually, on one finger), the placements I've worked in where there was a cleaner. Usually, we live alone with the client and it is up to us to keep the home clean and tidy and inviting.
We are expected to hoover, wash floors and keep bathrooms clean. This is basic stuff we do in our own homes. But there is a bit more, in my opinion, and in my experience:
Oh dear, I've seen too many dirty fridges in placements. A dirty fridge is a breeding ground for bacteria, and at the very least, ask yourself if you are happy to eat food from that fridge. If the answer is 'no’, then it's time for a clean. It really doesn't take that much effort to clean a fridge.
The other appliances that get neglected are the microwaves and the washing machines. Really, do you want to eat food that has been prepared in a microwave that is covered in hard food? Giving the microwave a wipe after each use is all it takes to keep it clean. (I still have one of those old-fashioned microwaves with two knobs that I bought when I arrived in the UK in 2002! Why? Because it's still in perfect working order and pristine). The same procedure should apply to the washing machine - wipe inside the rubber rim after each use and clean the detergent tray from time to time and you'll never see mould.
Kettles need to be descaled and the crumb tray from the toaster needs to be emptied occasionally. Cobwebs can be dealt with when you notice them (funny how one day they're suddenly there and then you can't stop seeing them!)
It sounds as though I'm a cleaning nut, but truly, I dislike cleaning. It's boring, but living in a dirty house is just not an option. I draw the line at polishing the silver, although I worked with a lovely co-carer who did polish the silver. She did it because she enjoyed it and it was a way of passing the time in a relatively quiet placement.
Cleaning, or polishing the silver, can also be a way of engaging the client. I have found it a very useful way of introducing meaningful engagement with some clients who may be bored and want activity or focus. It can also be a way of keeping clients active and mobile. It can be a lovely 'meaningful day’ activity. Cleaning need not be demeaning - if you drop the 'de’, it becomes ‘meaning’.
We are expected to do light cleaning, and I don't think anything I've mentioned can be classified as 'heavy’ cleaning. I don't do windows and I don't move furniture about to clean behind the sofa. The bulk of our work should not be taken up cleaning. Our main focus should be our clients and take care of them according to their needs, in a clean, healthy and safe environment!