From hair to care – how the pandemic changed Amanda's life

From hair to care – how the pandemic changed Amanda's life
Amanda Hathaway from Dersingham

Changing careers is a difficult decision, but one West Norfolk woman who made the switch is encouraging others to follow her and become a carer.

A former hairdresser turned home care visitor says the experience of changing jobs during the pandemic has been one of the most positive things she has ever done, and has urged anyone who is considering doing the same to make the switch.

This month Amanda Hathaway, from Dersingham, clocked up her first year as a carer for family-run Extra Hands, based in Heacham, which was rated outstanding by the Care Quality Commission.

“I’m definitely an ex-hairdresser and a proper carer now,” she said. “I enjoy the work so much, I liked hairdressing but I get more satisfaction from this because I know people really need us.

“I always used to do errands and things like that for clients, so it had always been at the back of my mind that one day, after I finished hairdressing, I might move into caring, but the pandemic made that decision for me. Stepping away from what I had done since I was a teenager was a big move but one year in, I know I made the right choice.”

For the past 28 years, Extra Hands has been providing award-winning care for families across Norfolk, with tailored care packages available to suit all circumstances and budgets. During the pandemic, Amanda says the home care company's services, particularly wellbeing check-ups, have been more in demand than ever, with some families relying upon Extra Hands carers to fill the gap when they have not been able to visit family members themselves.

“Caring is harder physical work and I’m worn out when I get home, but in a good way, and I definitely feel fitter,” Amanda continued.

“It took me about five months to feel fully settled in the job, but I am now, definitely, and if a new challenge comes along, I feel a lot more confident about dealing with it.

“You never stop learning, but I feel so much more at ease in the role now. I used to worry about going out and meeting new clients, but now I take it all in my stride – I’m a different person from the one I was even six months ago, let alone a year ago.”

The pandemic has made for character-building circumstances for everyone at Extra Hands, but it is a challenge to which carers like Amanda have risen in impressive fashion.

“You reach a stage in life where you think you’re too old to start learning anything new, but I think becoming a carer has made me into a different person, with more confidence, and a lot more self-assured,” said the 54-year-old.

“In the past, me and technology haven’t gone together, but I’m a lot more at ease now and don’t get in a flap like I would have done in the past.

“If I can handle these changes, anyone can, so I would definitely recommend it to anyone thinking of doing the same.”

As she looks back on a first year that no-one could have anticipated, Amanda said it would be nice if the next one was slightly less eventful.

“I have one woman I’ve been going to see for a while, and after I left her the other day I walked to my car and took my mask off, and she said 'It’s so nice to see what you really look like and who you are,' because she’d only ever seen my eyes before!”.