Meet Sharon Simpson. She always knew she wanted to care for others. From the age of ten she was washing net curtains and running errands for the nearby old people’s bungalows. And she is still supporting those very same homes with the Lifeline service she now installs for Bromsgrove District & Redditch Borough Councils.
When she left school at 16 Sharon worked at the Birches Care Home in Redditch. There she set up a Dementia Day Care Centre providing respite care for people in the community and their loved ones.
Her nomination to be a West Midlands Employers’ Everyday Hero came from her manager Rachel Nicolls. It’s glowing; “Nothing is too much trouble for Sharon” and “she’s always willing to learn” – full of examples of how Sharon has supported elderly people, some sadly to the end. And not just at work, Rachel says, ”Sharon is doing the shopping for several vulnerable neighbours and walking dogs too.” We will return to the dogs…
Sharon meets clients to see what support they need
Lifeline is the community alarm service that gives vulnerable and elderly people reassurance and helps them to live independently. Best known for the red button worn round the neck that, when pressed, puts a call through to a call centre for help. Sharon has worked for 25 years in the call centre control room on the end of a phone to support vulnerable residents. It’s a big operation with 25 staff taking not only Lifeline calls, but checking on the CCTV cameras in the district and taking out of hours calls for the Council too, supporting a wide number of people including those who are homeless.
In December Sharon transferred to her new role as the Lifeline Installation Officer, part of a 15 strong team. Her role means she’s out visiting clients to see what they need – whether that’s the red button pendant, the key safe, fall detectors or sensors for doors – helpful for alerts for people with dementia. The Council’s policy requests that all teams provide a one person cover in the office during the pandemic. Sharon, despite her love of being out in the community, volunteered to be based in the office, rather than at home.
Lifeline is a usually a chargeable service, but with the pandemic the Government made it a priority to get people out of hospital quickly to ‘Protect the HNS’ for the influx of Covid-19 patients and made the service free for six weeks. There was a huge spike in demand as hospitals discharged patients back home and relatives wanted to get support in for their family members. Sharon says she was well supported too, “I have full PPE protection for when I go into a home to visit someone who has been discharged from hospital. If they’ve tested positive for Covid-19 then I go into their home before they arrive to install what’s needed.”
The examples shared by Sharon’s manager are heart wrenching at this time. There’s been times when Sharon has supplied emergency installation at short notice but then found the person to really need extra support.
Sharon waited with the lady for the paramedics to arrive
One example is an emergency installation that took place on a Saturday, where an 83-year-old lady had been discharged from hospital. Her elderly brother arranged the installation and met Sharon outside the property but was unable to go in for health reasons. The lady was really unwell so Sharon ordered an ambulance and helped clean the lady. Sharon waited with the lady for the paramedics to arrive. Afterwards she contacted the brother – his sister had sadly passed away. Sharon spent some time re-assuring him that his sister knew that he was there at the time and that she was not alone which he was very appreciative of. She also sorted out her dog after the ambulance came.
Sharon thinks we need to learn some lockdown lessons. “Lockdown has broken down the barriers between people and despite the social distancing communities are closer. In my street people are enjoying food on their driveways together – we have continued since VE day. I hope that this community spirit stays.” And Sharon adds, “Although I’ve been the one to volunteer to be in the office, I do like how we can work from home and communicate through our laptops – we should keep that going. I really look forward to the daily lunchtime video calls with the team.”
If caring is within you then go for it – it’s so rewarding
Asked what Sharon would offer as career advice she says, “If caring is within you then go for it. It’s so rewarding. There’s never a day that I don’t think I’ve made a big difference to somebody. I have really loved my career.”
Back to the dogs. She has four springer spaniels and she’s up every day at 6am to walk them, taking with her a bag to picks up litter on the streets. Sharon raises money for Forest Dog Rescue, a charity in Wyre Forest, that takes in dogs from people who have passed away. She raises money for the Charity by doing dog grooming in her garage.
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