Oh dear. The plastic sachet with medication for Tuesday – containing the five pills Steijvers’s client needs to take this morning – has disappeared. Standing at the kitchen counter in his client’s flat at about nine a.m., home care worker Danny Steijvers racks his brains. He’s holding the medication roll, a series of connected sachets with tablets in the right doses. The next sachet really says ‘Wednesday 5 December’ rather than ‘Tuesday 4 December’. He whispers: “She has mild dementia. This isn’t the first time things have gone wrong.”
A piece of paper on the door of the kitchen cabinet that provides access to the medication roll serves as a warning to the client: “Don’t touch medication, please.” It didn’t work.
“Have I already taken them? No, certainly not,” the lady says, but this information doesn’t help Steijvers much.
He checks the Envida file. His colleague who was here yesterday didn’t write down anything that reassures him. He calls the pharmacy. In the meantime, his client makes herself a sandwich. “I don’t like meat or cheese. I prefer chocolate sprinkles.”
Then, the student emerges from the bedroom with the missing sachet in his hand. “I found it!” He puts the pills on her breakfast plate. “She probably did wander around with them”, he says softly. “It’d be better if there was a medicine lock box.”
Before the search for the pills began, Steijvers and his client were in the bathroom. She receives showering assistance. The Observant journalist listened to their conversation from the adjacent living room. “You’re being showered today.” “Bathed?” “No, showered.” “Are you showering as well?” she asked Steijvers. “No, that’d be a bit odd!” They both laughed.
He helped her shower, dry off, put on compression stockings and get dressed. Fifteen minutes later, she looked tip-top. “He’s a good teacher”, she laughed at Steijvers, under the assumption that the Observant journalist is a new Envida trainee. She’d already forgotten that there’s an article being written about his side job.
Steijvers started working as a home care worker at Envida three years ago, when employment agency InterUM was looking for students. “You can start working here once you’ve finished your bachelor’s degree in Medicine. Employees follow a number of short training courses: learning how to turn a person in bed, how to put on compression stockings, and simple treatments like administering eye drops.” Wound care, injections or stoma care aren’t part of his job; the nurses are trained for these tasks.
Steijvers works in various neighbourhoods. Today’s route, through the neighbourhood Heugemerveld, is a familiar one: he knows it inside out. A ninety-year-old lady opens the door from behind her walker. She walks up (and down) the stairs with ease. “I don’t want a stairlift until it’s absolutely necessary,” she says. She lives alone; her partner passed away years ago. “But I’m not lonely.”
It’s almost ten thirty a.m. by the time Steijvers gets back on his bicycle and goes from the street with single-family homes to a senior housing complex. He rings the doorbell of a couple. The man needs help putting on his compression stockings. “My, you’re late!” grumbles the woman. “I’m sorry, it couldn’t be helped. It’s very busy today!” Steijvers has been up and at ’em since seven a.m. and still has three addresses to go.
He’s very close to completing his studies. “That’s why I have so much time to work.”
There’s one last thing we’d like to know: how do older women react to getting a young, male care worker? “Most don’t mind, but some insist on getting a female care worker, even become angry. I can swap shifts with colleagues if possible, but the neighbourhood team leader decides whether it’s possible and allowed. Envida has become stricter about this; an increasing number of care workers and nurses are male, and there isn’t always much choice in the current tight labour market.”
Does he plan to pursue a career in elderly care? “No, I don’t think so. But I don’t want to work in a hospital, either! I want to have a normal working week. Maybe I’ll go shadow a corporate physician for a day.”