Charles Chiappini, 67, has been working as a live-in carer for Winchmore Hill-based Home Care Preferred for nearly a year and been a carer for six years. Here he discusses the benefits and challenges of this unusual job role.
Charles previously ran his own care agency in South Africa and even served in the South African navy. He works as a live-in carer in London providing care for 92-year-old client who has dementia. “The job role appealed to me because I have strong experience working in mental health. Live-in care provides me with an opportunity to build up trust with clients and their families over time – allowing me to make a real difference to their quality of life, which is job satisfaction at its best.”
Charles lives with and cares for his client with the exception of a two-hour break each day and has Sundays off during the day time when he goes to museums, theatres, fiddles with his much loved classic car and spends time with his two adult sons who also live in London.
Discussing his relationship with clients he comments: “It can occasionally be difficult at the start – you are in another person’s home – but you eventually form a close bond and that is really fulfilling. Trust is the absolute aim of the game.
“Not only is it about cooking, cleaning and ironing, personal care etc., but driving clients to medical appointments and enabling them to enjoy hobbies such as going to the theatre. Our central aim is to ensure we provide the care and support needed to allow people to live fulfilled lives safely, as independently as possible, in the comfort of their own familiar surroundings. Family are included at every stage of the process. They care about their loved ones and want reassurance that carers are trustworthy, properly trained and reliable. I see my role as much as with family as with my client – I know how much I worried about my ageing Dad.”
He also enjoys the financial benefits afforded by the work. On top of his salary, he receives food and accommodation – ideal considering the spiralling costs of living in London.
“It is truly a privilege working with my clients. The free board and lodging in addition to my basic salary have also helped make this an appealing career choice for me in my retirement. The support Home Care Preferred has provided has been first-rate: excellent training, supportive, professional and the team are ultimately nice, caring people, very professional but with a sense of humour too.”
Charles cared for his previous client for four years and has worked with his current one for seven months. “While clients may occasionally be reluctant to share their home – over time you build up rapport. My current client has had an incredible life which I love learning about. He’s a qualified engineer and geologist who has worked in countries all over the globe. Although his short-term memory isn’t what it once was, he is able to share extraordinary details about his life – including his time as an international sportsman.
Asked what he likes best about the job, Charles says: “I like the way we empower the client and their family. Rather than dictating what they should do we provide them with options and they decide which of those they’d like to take. The relationship you build with a client working in live-in care forms the kind of trust which is needed to help with conditions such as dementia.”
And what he likes least: “Understanding that when a client is difficult, they are not intentionally being difficult and unreasonable. For instance, they may wish to step out of a car and forget they can’t support themselves with their legs, or it’s not safe. It is our job to tackle these issues with a professional approach. ”
Charles is South African and works four months in the UK and then sees his wife in his native country for a month. He says “It’s like having three honeymoons with my wife a year.”