Written by John Ramsay, CEO of Shift8, the company behind the Tovertafel
In the UK, we have nearly seven million carers, both paid and unpaid, but with an aging population and government cuts, we are in dire need of new talent to bolster the professional care industry.
Care work is still one of the most underpaid jobs in the country - but also one of the most important. One of the biggest barriers for young people who are considering a career in this sector is the salary - and the industry has repeatedly come under fire because of this.
As a society we have moved away from looking after our senior citizens, turning our backs on carers.
When I was 12 years old, my father was diagnosed with early onset dementia at the age of 52 and died 10 years later. It was extremely difficult growing up and coping with my father’s condition, spending my teen years helping to care for him.
During this time, I worked with a number of professional carers, spoke to them about their experiences and witnessed first-hand how they cared for my dad. This made me realise that we need to attribute more value to professional carers, raise awareness and educate the younger population on why being a carer is an incredible career choice.
The reality is that it can seem a very daunting career path for a lot of young people. Many may not have spent much time with the elderly before, but this is certainly not a reason to be discouraged. Being a professional carer enables you to develop a wide range of skills and puts you to the test in ways that your average desk job simply doesn’t.
As a carer, you are constantly learning, reacting to situations which demand spontaneity and meeting individuals who have seen and lived through so much. We owe a lot to the older generation, these are the people who survived the World Wars – and they often give the best life advice.
Through my experience with my dad, I noticed there was, and still is, a real lack of innovation and use of technology in the care sector. To combat this, we need to find new ways to solve old problems, encouraging the use of breakthrough technologies and inspiring young people to choose a career in this field.
After my experience with my father, I left my corporate full-time job at a Magic Circle law firm and founded Shift8 because I knew I wanted to do something more personal to me and bring some good out of a highly difficult situation.
Shift8 is committed to changing the world by introducing socially responsible and life changing products to UK and Ireland. Our first product is called Tovertafel (Magic Table) - a series of award winning games for people with mid to late stage dementia to stimulate physical, social and cognitive activity.
As part of the service, we have created the Tovertafel Buddy scheme to help inspire the next generation to get involved in dementia care and potentially end up working in the field.
A Tovertafel Buddy is a volunteer in the local area, usually aged between 17 and 23, who visits the care centre where the Tovertafel has been installed and shows the staff, family members and residents how to get the best out of the Tovertafel.
Being a carer is an extremely rewarding career choice and I feel we need to raise more awareness of this. The residents that you work with can be cheeky, charming, hilarious and wise. When you see a smile and you know you’ve engaged with that person, it is extremely fulfilling – and knowing you’ve made a real impact and have supported someone else on their journey is worth more than your own personal gain.