Interview with Sarah MacLachlan (Care Manager)

Sarah MacLachlan began her Tagsa career as a home care worker in 2020 and climbed through the ranks toward becoming a fully qualified Care Manager. 

Sarah, alongside her colleague Kirsty, work on individual care packages and plans. They work together with social workers and the council to learn about people’s support needs, providing them with a package which is good for the individual.  

‘We have such a big range of support available. I think that care means a different thing to everyone. Whether that be the service user, the family member or the carer themselves, we all have to work together to provide that service, and it is so needed on the islands. 

When I started, it was during covid times and I was very much thrown in at the deep end. I had just completed my training and I was thinking, oh, my goodness, how am I going to do this? But, in hindsight I’m really thankful for that, because I got to see people in a time that was possibly the scariest time for everyone else. But especially for these people that were so vulnerable and stuck in their own homes. We got to go in, reassure them and look after them.’ 

Tagsa offers a range of support for the community and this includes a commissioned respite service, domestic support and regular care at home. There are also packages available which are either funded by the Western Isles Council or the Western Isles Care Forum where family members can receive some respite. 

Currently, each month, Tagsa are providing up to 900 hours of care with their personal task care and commission respite care packages. Initially, a person can receive respite time in the care home or in their own homes. Tagsa also get funding from the council to provide a service for people who are currently not in receipt of other forms of care, however, if a person is going towards the need for care and they’re not quite ready to decide on what they need, they can go to Tagsa for help. 

‘The Tagsa free hours are a stepping stone in a way. It’s like just slowly introducing that support into their lives and then making sure that they definitely need it.  

We do a three month section and we’ll do a review at the end of that time. And then I go to social work and I work with them. So, in a way, it gets them used to the idea of accepting somebody into their house to go down the line of supporting them with their personal care tasks.’  

These free hours from Tagsa are an opportunity for carers to build that relationship with the service user and figure out what they may need. This time can be extended or shortened depending on a person’s condition and diagnosis. Sarah’s top priority is to keep people living comfortably at home and allowing them to hold onto their independence for as long as possible.  

‘We’re very person centred. It’s about the person receiving care. It’s about making sure that person is okay and that we’re spending that time with them. We like to get to know them properly during any visit that we do, we can feed them and make sure they’ve taken their medications, have a blether, give them some company and do some of the housework for them. 

 We don’t want to make the service user feel like they’re rushed. We want to make them feel comfortable because if they feel rushed, then that’s when accidents and things can go wrong.  

We don’t want to be intruding and we don’t want to do things that they feel like they don’t want. It has to be on their terms. We have to get their agreement, otherwise it doesn’t work.  

There’s such a stigma around care. From our side of things, we’re more personally invested in the service users and in their lives. You get to know them as a person, you get fond of them, you get attached to them, you build relationships with them. Some people are just not aware of how much is actually involved in the job. It’s definitely not for everyone.’ 

The life of a carer can be a challenging one and Sarah appreciates this fact. It’s a physical job and can be difficult mentally. Even so, Sarah mentions that seeing a person smile can be the best part of the job. Making a difference and giving back to the community is what keeps a lot of people turning up and working with Tagsa. Working in the care sector requires patience, compassion and most importantly kindness.  

‘The last thing somebody wants when they’ve had their independence and their dignity stripped away from them is somebody to be horrible to them. They want somebody to be understanding and caring about their situation. So that’s what jumped at me and got me into doing care.  

I don’t really think there’s one word to describe how carers feel, but when I think about when I was a carer, I’d say that it’s possibly the most rewarding job you could ever do in your life. It’s such a great feeling to be able to give back to somebody, and it can be somebody who is lonely in their house and is living by themselves. And it’s just even that thing for somebody to say thank you. You could have had the worst day. You could have had things go wrong left, right and centre. And just for that one, thank you, it just makes it all worthwhile. 

It’s not flattering in the slightest. I think it’s really difficult to sell somebody care, because it’s such a changeable job. You could go out and all your service users could be on top form and you have the best day ever, or all your service users could be sick and it could be problematic. Someone could have a fall, or end up in hospital, and you could have the worst day. So, it’s hard to describe that to somebody who isn’t aware of what care is. I think that’s one thing that I really struggle with.  

In a normal job, every day is different, but in care, that needs to be put in bold and underlined. Every day is different. No day is ever the same. I really enjoy being in the office, and I absolutely love being a carer.’ 

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