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‘When you manage to keep someone in their own home it makes everything worthwhile' - Social Care is making a real difference

Eileen McNaughton with her friend and social care worker PatrIcia Quinn

Over 43,000 social care workers are making a difference in people’s lives across Northern Ireland. 

The Northern Ireland Social Care Council is sharing their stories and shining a light on the men and women who dedicate themselves to social care. They believe in better. They believe in making a difference.

Caring comes naturally to Patricia Quinn, a mum of two grown up children and six grand-children from Cushendall. 

For 18 years, she has worked for the Northern Trust as a social care worker; a job that she loves and finds rewarding. But through the Direct Payment Scheme, she also provides companionship for her close friend Eileen McNaughton, who has Alzheimer’s disease. 

Not only does this mean Eileen has someone familiar and trustworthy coming into her home in Cushendall, but it also frees up Eileen’s husband Cathal for an afternoon once a week.

“Eileen has been my friend since I got married and it was important to the family, and to Eileen, that I was someone she felt safe with and could trust. 

She’s a very independent woman; on the ball. I don’t take over. I let her do things like the washing. 

She still wants that control,” says Patricia.

“When the family were looking for someone to come into the house to spend time with her, it had to be someone they knew she would be relaxed around.”

The family also needed someone with the skill set, training and experience of working with people with complex conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Dementia.

“I’m not just her companion but her friend. I must admit, I did take it hard when she was diagnosed and it took me a while to adapt to the fact that things were changing; that maybe we couldn’t have the same chats any more.

“But we do talk a lot. We focus on the things she can remember. I love spending time with her. She’s still Eileen.”

Patricia says working in social care is a hugely worthwhile job though she concedes it can be tough at times. But ultimately, knowing she is making a difference in the lives of other people, means she gets satisfaction from her career. 

“When you manage to keep someone in their own home; their own happy place, that makes everything worthwhile,” she says.

Patricia has also witnessed the positive impact having the younger Cathal around has had on his mum. 

Ireland’s only award-winning Pulitzer photo journalist, Cathal took the decision to move home once his mum was diagnosed. It’s a much quieter, gentler way of life but it’s also given him breathing space to reflect on what really matters most to him.

Being a photojournalist is a vocation as well and Cathal was eager to work with community groups and charities to ‘give something back’. He was happy to get involved with the NI Social Care Council and Department of Health’s ‘Social Care- Making a Difference’ campaign to shine a spotlight on the social care workforce throughout Northern Ireland.

As a result, he’s not only sharing his own story and highlighting the contribution Patricia makes to his mum’s life, but he has also been capturing, on camera, the experiences of other social carer workers across Northern Ireland. And he admits it’s been cathartic.

“Doing this project has really opened my eyes to the work of these incredibly selfless people and if I can help persuade one person to consider social care as a profession, I’ll be pleased,” Cathal says.

If you want to learn more about a career in social care and the positive difference it makes in people’s lives visit  https://niscc.info/social-care-stories/


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