A day in the life of a HSE Home Care Assistant

cancer man - Brianna Polvett
Part of Joan's job involves caring for cancer patients. photo credit: Brianna Prlvett.

An interview with Joan Cashin, Home Help and Home Care Assistant.

Tell us about your job and what you do?

I started off doing home help first in 1980, then I took two years off and when I came back I started doing home care and home support as well as home help. Home help involves going into patients houses and cleaning their house, cleaning out the fire, dressing the beds and doing their grocery shopping. Home care is when you go in and say good morning, wash them, dress them and give them their breakfast.It is much more personal

What’s the most challenging part of your job?

Physically it can be very difficult and challenging. Like I’m after getting my hair pulled and slaps in the face numerous times, its the Alzheimer’s, they don’t mean it but they get agitated very easily and you have to remember that that person is not like that the whole time, it is not them, it is the illness.

Describe your typical work day.

I start at 25 past 7 in the morning in Charleston Hill, then I head to the top of the Irish Town, then I come down to Bosheen, then I come to South Knock and then I have two patients I visit every night also. I walk to all of my jobs, I don’t drive. I work 12 days in a row and then have 2 days off. I feel like this needs to change, it’s very hard. My contract is only for 27 and a half hours but I usually do 39 to 44 hours a week. But I really feel we should only work one weekend a month, not three.

Do you think the money is representative of how hard the job is?

Yes I think the money is good. We’re alright with the pay but I feel we should be treated a little bit better. If you go to management with an issue they are not accommodating or helpful at all. I got bit by a dog in January and I had to get a tetanus shot, when I sent them the medical bill they were not happy with it, it happened on the job so it is therefore their responsibility. That’s what I don’t like about the job, they make you feel like dirt

Another issue is that when our patients go into hospital or go away for a few days or weeks, we don’t get paid while they’re away. If they’re not there we don’t get paid. I have a mortgage to pay and I can’t afford to lose out on a weeks pay because a patient has gone into respite for a week, it’s very unfair.

Have you ever had any issues with patients family members?

One thing I will say about some families, and not all families now, but there are families that treat you like a slave. You will go into some houses and the daughter might say I need to leave and I’ll be back in half an hour and then they don’t return for nearly 2 hours. I only get paid to be in a patients house for the hour, but I wouldn’t leave them on their own when its unsafe to do so. It’s really not fair that I have to stay there for another hour without any extra pay.

Is the job very emotional at times?

cancer man - Brianna Polvett
Part of Joan’s job involves caring for cancer patients. photo credit: Brianna Prlvett.

The hardest part about the job is the hospice element and seeing young people dying in front of you. I had one young man that I had only been looking after for three weeks when he died. You would have a tear in your eye on many occasions, it’s very sad and emotional. They tell us to be hard but you know it’s very hard to be hard. There’s one young woman who’s sick in the area at the moment, she’s only in her thirties and  I know her  personally. She has a nine year old son and she wants no one only me to look after her, but I don’t want to see her dying, I really don’t, I just don’t. When you see an old person dying, it’s hard but you know they’ve lived a long life, but when you see a young person dying in front of you it’s very hard.



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