These days, people are living much longer. This can be a problem for those elderly folk who live alone in rural areas with no nearby relatives who are able to care for them. Often, there is no reason why many of these people cannot continue living in their own homes with a little extra help and that’s where the ‘Country Cousin’ comes in.
If you enjoy helping people and would like a job that makes a real difference to people’s lives, this could be the one for you. As a Country Cousin you would usually ‘live in’ either in the client’s home or in an adjoining cottage or annex. You would assist elderly or disabled people with their daily activities as well as performing some housekeeping duties, providing companionship, driving, shopping and running errands.
You would be expected to pass background checks by the Disclosure and Barring Service and you would need a full driving licence.
An ideal Country Cousin has a friendly and caring attitude, can relate to people from a variety of backgrounds, is able to work with little or no supervision and must have patience and a good sense of humour. You must demonstrate tact and sensitivity and have a respectful approach to clients whilst remaining calm under pressure. The ability to use your own initiative and being able to work as part of a team are also important traits.
Your duties would vary depending upon the needs of each client you look after. Some people will require extensive help with the activities of daily living; washing, getting dressed and all aspects of their personal care. You may be required to prepare and cook meals, look after the laundry including ironing, changing beds and making shopping trips. There may be a fire to make up each day during the winter and some light cleaning duties. Many elderly people living alone have a pet for company and you might expected to help with its care; for example exercising a dog or taking a cat to the vets’ for vaccinations etc.
Many elderly people are still socially very active although they can no longer drive a car so your duties might include taking them to social engagements, hospital appointments or on shopping trips. Some people need help with managing their budget, paying bills and dealing with correspondence and you might be asked to help organise social and leisure activities too.
Whilst having assistance enables many elderly and disabled people to continue living in their own homes, this can leave them isolated if they live out in the countryside. As a Country Cousin a key part of your work would be to provide companionship and friendship so you must have a cheerful, willing personality and enjoy listening to people.
Your working hours will vary from job to job. For reasons of practicality, you will be required to ‘live in’ most of the time and you will be expected to assist your client as required which could include evenings and weekends. Because of this, most positions are worked on a rota system and part-time work is available if you don’t want to work nights or weekends.
Salaries begin at around £14,000 per annum, rising to £21,000 according to your experience and qualifications and tend to vary from job to job depending upon the client’s individual circumstances and what duties you are expected to perform. Live in positions often pay more as do those which require ‘out of hours’ working.
Previous experience is usually essential as a pre-requisite to entry into this career. A good starting point is through voluntary work and opportunities are listed on the Do-it and Volunteering England websites. Check out your local press, churches and charities in your area too for ideas.
There are a number of qualifications you can work towards if you wish although these are not essential to get into this career. See the Skills for Care website for details. http://www.skillsforcare.org.uk
Most Country Cousins/Companion Housekeepers work through agencies although many work on a self-employed basis and as such are required to keep their own accounts and submit tax returns.
Training and development
Once you have registered with an agency, you will receive training from them before you are allocated to clients. This will include shadowing experienced colleagues and attending external courses such as first aid, health and safety, food hygiene and lifting and moving people safely.
Social care workers in England must attend a 12 week induction program which is based on national minimum care standards. Areas covered include; equality and inclusion, principles of safeguarding, the role of the health and social care worker, health and safety and person centered support.
http://www.lady.co.uk (The Lady magazine has job vacancies advertised in its classified section together with agencies seeking staff)