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'Join us!': Black Isle carers rally round recruitment drive as vulnerable folk face Christmas shortfall


By Hector MacKenzie

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Karen Gunn and Iain Roy. Picture: Callum Mackay..
Karen Gunn and Iain Roy. Picture: Callum Mackay..

THE easy banter between wheelchair-bound Iain Roy and the carers gathered in his Black Isle home is testimony to a strong bond of trust and affection that can only be earned over time and by putting in the hard hours.

Iain was left a tetraplegic after an army training session went tragically wrong. The life-changing spinal injury left him unable to walk and, initially, dependent on 24 hour care.

A keen football fan who also enjoys gaming and – when possible – trips to the cinema, he is all too aware of the lifeline offered by the Eilean Dubh Home Care team and clearly grateful for the opportunity it affords to live as independent a life as possible at home.

Now 52, he has had experience of respite care home life in the past and is clear that it is not for him.

And he’s keen to wave a flag for the carer recruitment drive that has now swung into action by the well-respected Culbokie-based provider which was set up to help address unmet need on the peninsula.

That came into sharp focus after another care provider gave its statutory13 weeks’ notice that it was ceasing provision to part of the Black Isle, leaving the prospect of a care gap days before Christmas.

Joanna Dymock, the company’s service manager, reckons there will be 200 hours of a care gap from December 20 unless anyone steps in.

With a strong background in caring, she knows the difference it makes to clients. She said: “There’s always unmet need. We are talking about the basics – literally getting out of bed, getting to the toilet and getting fed and getting medication.”

She says training is largely on the job with mandatory elements to learn. Some clients need two carers.

The company already provides around 230 hours of care on the north side of the peninsula. Said Joanna: “It’s potentially a great career. It’s a job you can develop a career in.

“Ideally people want to be in their own homes. In a rural area that brings its own issues with travel.”

In cases of dementia, people in their own homes can maintain more of their independence.

She said there would be no way that the care required on the Black Isle could be met by residential care even if that were desirable. She said: “A lot of people need a little bit of help.”

Asked about the recruitment drive, she said: “What you get out of it is priceless. You form close relationships. People enjoy giving something back. We have had people who have been in a totally different industry. One man was a welder all of his life. He is fantastic.

“It’s about the desire to connect and support other people. You can come from any other workforce.”

She invites anyone interested to come in for an informal chat to find out if the job might be for them or not.

Eilean Dubh has been providing care at home services since setting up in 2020, driven by people who knew of the care gap and wanted to try and fill it.

Paula Bremner and Iain Roy. Picture: Callum Mackay..
Paula Bremner and Iain Roy. Picture: Callum Mackay..

One of them is Paua Bremner who is crystal clear in outlook as to why she : “I’ve been involved for about a year and 10 months. I was a carer for 29 years and I have also needed care myself.”

Realising the need for care that existed on the Black Isle, where she lives, and having spare time to give, she has simply never looked back after joining Eilean Dubh.

“It’s such a satisfying job. I find it to be really flexible.” She has a 12-hour contract but will pick up other hours if needed. She says it’s possible that someone could start on just six hours.

“For the people we visit, it’s a friendly face. I treat people the way I would want to be treated myself. It’s not every family that can help out.”

The care can be as simple as helping someone get up, get washed and get dressed. Carers can also be the “eyes and ears” that pick up on other issues affecting those they look after.

She said: “For some it is a lifeline. Personally I just think you need to be a caring person. I get excited to go to work. It’s so rewarding. I’m in the right job.”

Her advice is to find out more and give it a go with support. She said: “Let’s face it, any of us may well need this help ourselves. I started out helping with meals on wheels and could see the need that was there.”

Evelyn Cameron. Picture: Callum Mackay..
Evelyn Cameron. Picture: Callum Mackay..

Iain meanwhile says he gets “pretty much everything I need” adding: “Without this there are times I wouldn’t see anyone all day. Without this, chances are I would be in a care home. I was in one for six weeks’ respite. People can become institutionalised in them. I prefer to be at home and this allows me to do that.”

He said: “If more people can be cared for at home it would be much better.”

An NHS Highland spokeswoman said: “We have been working closely with Eilean Dubh and the local community to explore creative ways in how we can help recruit to these important carer roles in our community.

“ It is important that we can support people to be independent in their homes for as long as possible and supporting the local community to recruit and develop ‘home grown’ carers that create sustainable care capacity.

“It’s been a positive experience and our collective connections with the local community have helped as we have all done it together. There is still a need for more carers and we will continue to work with Eilean Dubh and progress this work together. “

Black Isle councillor Lyndsey Johnston, who has a caring background, is supportive of the Eilean Dubh team’s efforts: “I think they are a fantastic operation. I realise there’s a worry for families, especially at this time of year. Carers don’t get the respect that they deserve and that is something I believe needs to change. They can be a lifeline.”

If you would like to share your story about how care at home has helped a loved one – or if you a carer yourself working in Ross-shire – feel free to get in touch. Email hector.mackenzie@hnmedia.co.uk


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