“As I turn to walk through the door I look at my client, my friend, and am saddened that I cannot hug him as we usually do. He is worried, I can see it in his eyes, worried for himself and worried for me.”

Doctors and nurses in our hospitals are more recognised than ever. We literally applaud them every week, and rightfully so: they are putting their lives in jeopardy to care for us.

But what about those who do exactly the same, but not in hospitals, out in the community?

What is life like on the frontline for carers?

Rachel Rainsford, 51, a carer for Eclipse HomeCare, told the Worcester News about a day in the life of a carer amidst the coronavirus pandemic.

“My day starts at 5am: I wake up and I travel from Malvern and get to my first client at 7am. Some of our lovely caregivers are off at the moment, self-isolating, so we are all pulling together to get all calls covered - it is not as though we can allow people to just not be seen.

“This means my first call of the day was in an area I didn’t know well, after using a sat nav and still managing to get lost several times I eventually arrive at the house, stressed and very aware of time.

“Never mind, I put on my PPE, go in with a big smile and introduce myself. I am greeted with a big smile from the lady inside. So far so good. I am about to put a mask on and this lovely lady said: “Oooh, don’t put that on, I’m already a bit deaf and I can hardly hear a thing with those things on!” So that was that!

“This call involves assisting the client up, washing, dressing, administering creams, teeth in, hearing aids in, making the bed, tidying up, administering medication, gathering items for downstairs, emptying and cleaning commode and then assisting downstairs.

“Once down I make her comfy, breakfast and drink at the ready, washing up done and rubbish taken out. Then at last we have a little chat, funnily enough about the coronavirus. This particular lady was really frustrated at having to forego her weekly trip out shopping which she thoroughly enjoyed as she rarely gets out anyway. She was having to rely on deliveries but said a few items are often forgotten so she has to rely on others to pick up bits and bobs. Our chat ends, sat nav is back on, off I got to the next call.”

“I arrive at my second call a bit late as we don’t get a lot of time in between for travelling – it is very easy to get behind, especially when we are dealing with new clients and are not used to their routines. Eventually I locate the building, and then after wrestling with the key safe and getting PPE on, in I go, big smile.

“We spent a few moments chatting about the corona – “When’s all this going to end? It's terrible.” – then we changed subject to the weather to cheer ourselves up. This call I make a cup of tea, breakfast, do the washing up, empty the comode and then...oh no...stockings. I had to assist with full length stockings, toe socks and some big bandages that I had never seen before. I gulped and after five seconds of blind panic I pulled myself together and tried to look like I knew what I was doing. Success! Stockings on, client happy, waved a cheery goodbye and off I went, proud as punch.

“My next two clients are not too far away, but finding the buildings and the key safes prove to be a challenge. After some frantic phone calls to the office I arrive, slightly sweaty, to my next client. Big smile, and I am in.

“This lady is very nervous, she needs lots of calm encouragement to get up, washed and dressed. No chatting about coronavirus with this one, it would not be appropriate. I leave her with breakfast and a cup of tea after tidying up a little. All is well. On to the next...

“This client needs me to go to the shops to pay some bills and fetch the paper, so of course, off I go, social distancing all the way and queuing to get in the shop. Time ticks on and I am getting frustrated, I can’t shake the feeling that if I was dressed as a doctor or a nurse I would be hurried to the front. Never mind.

“I am now with one of my regular clients and greeted with a huge smile, no hugs this time though – social distancing. This is an hour's cleaning call. When I have done my work we have a chat. He shares that he is very worried, not just for his own health, but for mine too. It is a difficult moment. I blow him a kiss and leave knowing he will be in my thoughts for the rest of the day.

“My last client of the morning goes smoothly, we chat about everything, putting the world to rights. Mental health support is just as important as physical care in this field, often times we are the only visitors our clients see all day.”

“At 2pm I go home, eat and rest for a second ready for my next nine clients I will see from 4pm – 10pm. Having so many calls in the afternoon,the pressure is on, the visits are shorter, but luckily they are all regulars, so no need for introductions.

“The first few calls go without a hitch, the third lady I visit is wearing PPE, similar to mine; I pause to reflect on how at this moment we are both protecting ourselves from each other. I make her a drink and empty her catheter. Then we chat about the virus and how it is putting strain on us all.

“The lady I see next breaks my heart. I enter the building and we chat, but she is confused. She doesn’t know what is happening nor why I am there. She knows that she hasn’t seen her daughter, but doesn’t know why. All I can do is try to comfort her and explain that her daughter loves her but can’t visit her at the moment because of the virus. I know that when I leave she will forget my words and be alone wondering once again why her family are not visiting. It is heartbreaking, but I must stay cheery for her. I chat away to her, trying to take her mind off her sadness. Prep some food and make her a good old cup of tea along with some medication. I blow her a kiss and get on my way.

“By now it is 6pm. I enter my client's flat, she wants a hug but she knows we mustn’t, so we have a fist bump instead. I get her ready for bed and leave her with a cup of tea and another fist bump. For the next two calls I meet up with a fellow carer. It is nice to double up for company and help hoisting clients into bed.

"I pull up outside the home of my final client of the day at 9pm. I am feeling weary now, but I plaster on a big smile and walk in. I am surprised to be met with a shriek of laughter. My client thinks my face mask is hilarious and demands I take it off as it is making her laugh too much.

“I point out that I am being totally made fun of and she says well you should have taken a look in the mirror before coming out. We both collapse in a fit of giggles. It is the most I have laughed all day. I make her comfortable and say my goodbyes.

“I arrive home just after 10pm. It was a busy day, but so so rewarding making that difference to clients' lives.

“It is a difficult time at the moment to be a caregiver, I am so grateful to everyone in my team for their constant support, it gives me the strength I need to get up and do it all over again tomorrow.”

The care sector is in dire need of support during this difficult time. Eclipse health care alone have been asked to recruit 80 new caregivers to help with the Covid-19 efforts.

Elaine Carolan, interim strategic director of people at Worcestershire County Council, said its care staff are putting in a huge effort to ensure the safety of people who are in receipt of adult social care.

“Staff are working creatively and at pace to provide care for some of the most vulnerable people in the county, and the desire that they’re showing to help others at this difficult time is testament to their dedication," she said.

“Staff are going above and beyond each day and we’ve seen examples of paid carers voluntarily providing 24 hour care to residents, ensuring much needed support whilst helping to shield the most vulnerable from the Covid-19 virus.

“Other examples, include food parcels being delivered by former carers and staff and support is being offered to other organisations to help with their staffing shortages.

“These are certainly difficult times and I’d like to say a huge thank you to our staff who are supporting our vulnerable residents, keep up the good work.”

If you have what it takes to be a carer on the frontline, visit eclipsehomecare.co.uk/apply/