With a seasonal job and two young boys to raise, Tracey Foster heard nurses were looking for ‘home help’ workers.
A short discussion later and she had the job, working in home based support services for the West Coast District Health Board.
She was assigned her first client – a woman she would continue to help for the next 26 years.
“I was with her until she was unable to stay at home. The day she went into a rest home was a very, very sad day.”
Foster said while those in the sector knew they were there in a professional capacity, a bond would develop occasionally.
“Every Tuesday I’d arrive at her house and I wasn’t allowed to start working until I’d had a cup of tea. It was her ritual.
“After that many years, you do have a really strong relationship.”
Foster said even after almost three decades in the job, every day was different.
“You can start the day getting someone out of bed, move on to showering, and then your next visit is cleaning. Every person is different, not only in their needs but their personality”
It is the people she cares for that drives her.
“You meet so many amazing people. I had a lot of clients who were born pre-World War Two so I’d hear their incredible stories. Things you’d never experience yourself.”
She said working in a small town had its good and bad aspects.
“Most clients I already know, whether it’s because my kids or I went to school with them or maybe they were friends with my parents.
“Sometimes it can be a challenge, but you just have to be professional and get in and do the job.”
Providing palliative care for her friend’s mother was both her toughest and most rewarding experience.
“I cared for her in her final three weeks. That was the hardest thing I have ever done on the job.”
Monthly training and refresher courses keep Foster up to date on latest practice.
“The biggest change in my career was the move to personal care. I resisted it for as long as I could. But once I gave it a go, I realised I didn’t need to be worried. It gets easier every day.”
Foster hopes to see more young people join the sector.
Her advice for those starting out in the home based care sector was to come with an open mind.
“Listen to those with experience and remember you can always learn new things as you go. Even after all these years, I’m constantly learning.
“It’s an incredibly rewarding career. You know at the end of the day you’ve made a real difference in someone’s life.”