Shieldhill woman marks 50 years as a carer for vulnerable people

Nancy Wilson (73) celebrates 50 years as a home carer this month. Picture: Michael Gillen
Nancy Wilson (73) celebrates 50 years as a home carer this month. Picture: Michael Gillen

For half a century, Nancy Wilson has been looking after our community’s most vulnerable residents as a home carer in the Falkirk area.

Now, aged 73, she shows no signs of slowing down and still cares for the elderly and disabled in their own homes.

Nancy laughed: “However, I’m a bit older than some of my service users now.”

The home carer is celebrating the 50th anniversary of her joining the local authority’s Higher Braes care team.

Nancy, from Whiteside Farm near Shieldhill, took up the job when she was 23. She was returning to the world of work after marrying her late husband Matthew and having their daughter Elizabeth, who is now 55.

Back then, her role was to clean the homes of disabled and elderly people. It was a physically demanding job that saw her scrubbing floors and cleaning out fires.

Nancy said: “It was hard work but I really enjoyed spending time with the clients. When I started a lot of the service users were former soldiers from the First World War and they had wonderful stories to tell.

“That generation went through real hardship and were so grateful for the help. Home caring was a relatively new thing when I started and the clients were happy to get company and a bit of help.”

Over the years, the role of a home carer has changed dramatically. From basically being a cleaner, to preparing meals and now helping with minor medical issues such as changing dressings and dealing with medications.

But Nancy says the main focus is still the same.

“I think the most important quality to being a carer, is to be interested in your clients. I enjoy talking to them and finding out how they are.

“With some people you might be the only person they see all day and it is important to take a genuine interest in them.”

Marion McLaughlin, home care manager for Higher Braes, said Nancy was ‘irreplaceable’.

She said: “Nancy has constantly gone above and beyond the call of duty for her service users, nothing is too much trouble for her and she is a well loved team member with both staff and clients.

“They don’t make people like Nancy any more and I don’t know what we will do when she finally decides to retire.”

Despite qualifying for retirement 13 years ago, Nancy opted to work on as she enjoys her work and says she doesn’t know how she would fill her time without caring.

She even stepped in at the last minute on Hogmanay 1999 when a client was left without a carer. She was in her bed when her manager called at 11.30 p.m. and asked her to visit the elderly man.

Nancy, who lives with grandson Mark (22), said: “I ended up welcoming the millennium in with the man and we enjoyed a wee wine to bring in the new year.”

As well as running a small farm, Nancy battles through all weathers in the Braes to reach her clients, even walking to make sure they were cared for during the severe winter of 2009 and 2010.

To mark the milestone, her colleagues threw a surprise party last Friday at Laurieston Old Folks Welfare Hall.

“There have been a lot of changes, but the biggest for me is the workload, we now have many more clients and have to squeeze in a lot of visits. Recently, I covered a weekend shift and had 14 visits to do.

“But I don’t think I’m ready to retire yet, I’ve been suffering a bit with poor health but as long as I can do the work, I’ll keep on doing it.”