With the help of introductory agency Country Cousins, Helen has been looking after people in their own homes for 13 years, providing everything from simple companionship to palliative care for her clients. Some have benefited from her love of art.
She explains: "While my professionalism as a carer is foremost in my mind, intuitively I’ve been able to apply my artistic creativity, at appropriate times, to soothe, uplift moods and relieve agitation in clients by gently redirecting their focus. The results have been remarkable.
"For example, one client with severe dementia was often confused and agitated. I knew she had been an art teacher, so I got out my water colour set and asked if she wanted to help me paint. Suddenly she changed: she was focused on watching me painting and behaving like an art teacher again, telling me what to do and changing my water. It was so lovely to see."
Originally from Zimbabwe, the experience of looking after her terminally ill aunt first gave Helen an insight into what it takes to care for someone full-time. "It was scary – but I learned a lot, including how much of a positive difference you can make for the person you're looking after."
Helen's a firm believer in the benefits of live-in care: "You're able to focus on that one person and what they like and don't like so that all their needs are being met when they want them to be met."
She's in no doubt about the worth of her work: "I spent many years in the corporate world, where everything seemed so important – but looking after people is real work. It's certainly helped me to put things in context."