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Becoming an independent support worker: Expect the Unexpected

When independent support worker Susan Elliott signed up to Mable to provide support, she was certain she understood the job brief. But, what joy to discover that Mable relationships, like all, are a two-way affair. And everyone wins!

First date nerves: I’ve pressed the doorbell of a stranger’s home, an unseen barking dog inside raises my stress level and there’s a long, awkward wait before the automated front door swings, silently, open. Then, an eerie few seconds before the cheeriest face I’ve ever seen welcomes me inside for my first Mable “Meet and Greet”.

Months on, I still don’t know why I was nervous. After 10 years as a Sydney TV news reporter the dreaded “door-knock” was a daily duty, terrifying at times with occupants rarely thrilled to have a camera in their face. It wore me down and triggered the decision to be part of much happier life stories. 

Five minutes into my “Meet and Greet” and the family’s barking Border Collie rumbles at my feet – I think I’ve passed “border” security! A cup of tea later and I have a new job which I hope will make this family’s life a bit easier. What I wasn’t expecting was the ricochet of rewards. For me.

DAY RELEASE

Perhaps symptomatic of the “lockdown era”, my first unexpected thrill comes as I reverse down my driveway. Leaving home triggers some haphazard happy hormone, I have a day pass to a stranger’s home to cook, clean and care for them. I remember on the first day, brandishing a new vacuum cleaner from a laundry stocked better than any supermarket, I was tempted to take to the rooftop and sing like Mary Poppins! I wasn’t expecting this job would make me feel quite so good.

Client Benefits: Good vibes are infectious!

DAILY VARIETY

I’m never 100 per cent certain what my Mable day will bring. On days I plan to clean windows suddenly I’m baking scones for surprise visitors, rushing a pet to the vet or having an impromptu lesson on how to crochet. Sometimes I bring my own Border Collie to the home (with permission) and chores are swapped for an afternoon riot of dogs and laughter. 

Client Benefits: the unexpected is refreshing and energising. 

RISING TO CHALLENGES

Things break, stop working, get misplaced, need replacing and initially I saw myself as the solitary trouble-shooter – I wanted to be an independent support worker not a constant harbinger of faults that needed fixing. When I realised how much my client family enjoyed solving problems with me the task was less stressful, more fun and things got fixed significantly faster!

Client Benefits: The pleasure of being part of solutions.

LEARNING NEW SKILLS

I fancy myself as a better-than-average cook, but nothing has tested my skills more than cooking for a family with numerous dietary needs. I’ve mastered gluten-free pastry (which is delicious), cooked lactose-free quiches, meat-free burgers and have found (sneaky) ways to get fish onto the plates of fussy teenagers. The unexpected joy has been sharing recipes from the family Mum and having her adapt some of my family favourites.  

Client benefits: sharing knowledge and passions.

CAMARADERIE

My care family is fortunate to have a lot of support and there are always several others working in the home – nurses, a cleaner, a gardener, the place buzzes with love and a united passion that’s really taken me by surprise. When this family celebrate special occasions, we are all invited to join in. It is really heart-warming to feel so welcomed into a stranger’s life.

Client benefits: An extended family (chosen not inherited!)

BRAGGING RIGHTS

I can’t help myself! At the end of the day, at home, I have to share with my own family the joys of my day – many which have been the simplest of things.

Client Benefits: They know they are worth bragging about. 

SLOWING THE LIFE “EXPRESS”

Patience hasn’t always been my strong point, my old career in news probably has something to do with that, eternally racing towards the next bulletin. Now here I am, part of a story where nothing happens in a hurry and it is so refreshing, especially the moments when everyone stops for a cuppa. There was guilt at first – that I was being paid a lovely hourly rate and should be earning those dollars, not having a natter. No guilt anymore. Talking fixes lots of things.

Client Benefits: Calm vibes (no-one tips an impatient waiter)

Six months into my new career with Mable, the transition from TV news reporter to support worker has been seamless with the baseline requirement essentially the same: the ability, and desire, to connect with people, to listen and to care. To be a people person. That’s really all it takes. 

My only regret? That I hadn’t started this journey sooner!

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