“Deciding what career path to go down was not the easiest choice for me. From a young age I knew I wanted to help people, but at school they never pushed caregiving as a career choice; I was only ever told about becoming a nurse or doctor, and working directly in a hospital just didn’t appeal to me.” Although Ashlee has always had a natural ability to show kindness to everyone, she often felt judged by her school peers as she really struggled with learning in a classroom setting.
After High School, Ashlee chose to study her Level 4 Health and Wellbeing at Hamilton Wintec, where to her surprise she received top marks in all her papers. She completed her placement at a Disability Agency in Hamilton and says “On my placement I got to work with people on all different ends of the spectrum; people who had just had a stroke to people in the special needs unit - and I just loved it. Not only because I was helping them, but I felt like I could understand how they were feeling. I didn’t really fit in at school and so I can relate to people living with disabilities, who might sometimes feel like they don’t fit in either.”
“After I finished college, we were just coming into Covid and I ended up taking a gap year to help my parents with their hospitality business, as this was a really tough time for them.” Working at the café she got to deal with lots of regular customers and showed her empathetic side and natural eye for reading people and dealing with different situations. “It was actually my mum that suggested I try out caregiving, she could see how I dealt with customers every day. For example, we had a lot of elderly people come in and I would always go out of my way to make sure they were looked after, I would help them come in and sit down, and would personally deliver food to them if it was a bad day and they couldn’t make it out of the house.”
After learning more about caregiving, she knew it sounded exactly like what she was looking for. Ashlee started applying for jobs and was initially drawn towards dementia wards. “Dementia runs in my family, so the idea of working in that field and learning more about it really attracted me.” It was when she was looking for jobs in this service area that she stumbled across Care On Call. Ashlee loved the sound of working out in the community and driving to different clients houses, and says “being out and about and doing something different every day really interested me, so I applied for the role with Care On Call straight away.”
Within 3 hours of applying for the job, Ashlee got a call back. “I was so excited when they called me and said they would love to interview me; so many other places I had applied for wouldn’t give me the chance saying it was too hard to train people during covid or that I didn’t have enough experience because of my age”. After the interview she got the job and was eager to start working. “I fitted into the role extremely well and after only the first few months I knew I had found my place and I had made the right choice”.
“My favourite part about caregiving is meeting different people and listening to my clients’ share stories about their lives, it makes them feel good and more comfortable, and knowing I don’t judge them for their situation helps.” Ashlee also loves to prove to people that despite her age she is capable of doing her job well, saying “I love building relationships with my clients and their families to make them feel more relaxed, I want my clients’ families to know that I am looking after their loved one correctly, and caring for them like I would my own family”.
One of Ashlee’s most memorable moments as a caregiver so far is with her 98-year-old war veteran client. “I remember a time when I was looking after one of my clients who had an infection in his kidney and I ended up having to ring an ambulance. I made sure I waited with him and helped keep him calm while we were waiting for the paramedics. Once they arrived I continued to stay with him even though I didn’t need to because I knew my client would feel more comfortable if I was there. He doesn’t do well around new people and also has certain ways he likes to do things, like how he gets dressed for example. By staying with him I was able to communicate his needs with the paramedics and make the situation a whole lot easier for everyone. Afterwards one of the paramedics told me I was one of the best carers they had seen in a while, because I genuinely cared about my client and was happy to wait and make sure he was okay. That was really rewarding to hear.”
Ashlee hopes she can inspire other young high school leavers to think about caregiving as a career choice and would say to them “Caregiving isn’t as scary as it seems, you just treat your clients like they would be family, we are all human and everyone deserves to be treated correctly. No one wants to be in those circumstances, no one chooses to be washed or changed, especially younger people, but they just need you there as a helping hand. Some day’s my clients just want to have a chat with me, it’s more about being empathetic and giving positivity to them. You are there as a support, both mentally and physically, and knowing the difference you can make to their day is truly rewarding.”