Profile of a Dignified Support Worker
Support worker, Pakita Ugoh originally dreamed of being an interior designer. After undertaking her degree in Interior Design and Decoration, she found she was wanting something more fulfilling and rewarding.
When researching TAFE courses, Paquita was drawn to Community Services and the types of roles this degree would open up to her. Unsure if this path would take her to the aged care or disability sectors, Pakita enrolled in a Diploma of Community Services and decided to wait to see where the modules would lead her.
“I started to grow and fall in love with it, and I found that, yeah, this could be the job for me. I’d like to see what I can do with this.”
When asked about people’s reactions when she tells them she is a support worker, Pakita noted, “some people think it’s just coffee dates or appointments – it is so much more, it is a lot of things that people don’t really get to see behind the scenes.”
A daily routine includes household chores, washing, and cleaning, and assisting people in getting ready for the day. The same as if we were getting up out of bed and getting ready for the day before we go to work or school. It is getting the client ready for their day, assisting in giving them breakfast, preparing meals, and taking them to their regular activities.
Pakita believes the most important skills required are compassion and listening – if you don’t listen, you don’t understand what your client really wants. Just as if it was your friend or loved ones that you were attending to, you treat your clients the same as what you would as if it was your own family members, she says.
A great support worker longs to give their client their best, every day.
Reflecting on some of the greatest challenges caregiving has presented Pakita, she knows communication is where she has really grown and developed in her career.
“When I first started, it was hard for me to know when to communicate, if the client was non-verbal that was where the hands-on experience taught me so much more about communication, understanding their body language, understanding the message in their eyes and face – that’s what you’ve worked for.”
Caregiving as a support worker has become a very fulfilling role for Pakita, knowing she’s helped her client throughout the day, put a smile on their face, making them laugh or just sitting and having a conversation, sharing stories.
“Sometimes they don’t want you to go home, but you know you will see them again tomorrow.”
Finding the balance to keep giving
With five school-aged kids, Pakita balances being a caregiver at home while also being a caregiver. Her shifts work around the kids’ school schedule and her partner chips in when she works weekends.
Self-care is important for support workers to recharge and be available and present for their clients. Pakita makes time on her days off to do something just for her, whether that’s catching up with friends over coffee or lunch or hitting the gym, where she can let go and not worry about anything. It helps her remain balanced, especially when the kids are rowdy, those situations become easier to handle.
Her partner also understands the importance of self-care and since Pakita became a caregiver they now take time to sit and talk and discuss what’s happening in their lives. “It’s become a team effort”, she says, “the kids now help each other with homework and chores, I appear to be modeling for them through caregiving.”
Looking ahead in the caregiving space, Paquita notes that there really is a shortage of career carers meaning that some clients, particularly in the won’t be receiving the level of support and care they really need. She hopes to see an industry in the future that puts compassion and a personal approach as a priority over ticking boxes. “After all, we’re all going to be there at some point, right?”