A carer says her motto for the pandemic has been to keep calm and carry on, after her outstanding efforts saw her recognised as a GEM.
Debbie Underwood works for Extra Hands, and was named the award-winning firm's latest winner of the GEM award – standing for Going the Extra Mile. The awards were launched last year after Extra Hands was inundated with stories from our service users of carers going the extra mile during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The pandemic has put a lot more pressure on us carers and we’ve had to take on more responsibilities, especially for service users, so we’ve had no option but to carry on,” the King's Lynn resident said. “The main thing we have to do is make sure that they’re safe, and that they feel alright.
"There are a lot more things to do now, and with family not necessarily being able to visit, we have to liaise with them as well, but I think the public in general have a much better understanding of what we as carers do.
“There have been quite a few times when I’ve been out on my rounds, and when people have seen me get out of the car, they’ve said thank you for what we’re doing. That’s so nice to hear, it really helps.”
Debbie, originally from Essex, has been with the family-run business for two years, having previously worked in a care home, and works from Extra Hands' Heacham office, which has been rated outstanding by the CQC.
“You don’t get the level of one-to-one interaction in a care home that you do with home visiting, so that’s what attracted me to working for Extra Hands, and I couldn’t have chosen better,” she said.
“This is by far the best place I’ve worked - nothing is ever a problem and they’re such a good company in the way they train and treat you as staff. That really makes a difference - if we’re happy when we go out to work, then our clients will be as well.”
Debbie was bashful about being nominated by service users, insisting she was just being professional.
“People say I’m kind, and that I’m always willing to help, no matter what I ask – I tell them it’s not a big deal, we all do that!,” she said.
“Even if it’s a last-minute thing as I’m going out the door, I’ll always stop and do whatever needs doing so I know I can walk away with a smile on my face and the knowledge that I’ve done everything I can to set them up for the day.
“It was so nice to be nominated. People always tell me that I’m a happy smiley person, and that they’re happy to see me, so I really appreciate it that they said it to someone else too, and I ended up winning this award.”
Debbie received several nominations for her work with Extra Hands, which supplies a wide range of care services, including a wellbeing check service that provides short visits to check up on care users when friends and family are unable to make the visit, giving everyone peace of mind.
One of Debbie’s nominations read: "If the world had more people like Debbie, it would be a far better place.
Another was equally glowing, praising her for her dedication to duty even during the recent snow.
“Debbie lights up my life with her cheerful soul. She is gentle, patient, kind and very funny,” the nomination read. “She lifts my spirits on a bad day, is supportive and understanding about mental health and no task is too small for her.”
The GEM Award winner from the Broadland office of Extra Hands, which has operated for almost three decades, was Lorraine Childerley, who was described as “going the extra 10 miles, not just one”.
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