"I will never cease to be grateful to her, and those like her"

My mother needed homecare for the last few years of her life (she died in 2011 aged 96) and we paid £9 per half hour to the council for an am and a pm visit each day, to ensure she could wash and dress, had eaten and taken her medication. The care was outsourced to a private company.

One of the morning carers, Joan, was turned 70 herself, and helped mum wash, dress, then rushed round, loaded soiled sheets into the washing machine and hung them to dry the next morning, sorted out breakfast, supervised mum taking her meds and often prepared a sandwich for her lunch as well.

This outstanding, hardworking and very caring woman went more than the extra mile.

However because the evening visits were 6.00pm and mum didn't want to go to bed then, some of the evening carers used to just check she'd taken her meds and asked did she mind if they went on to their next visit, as they had so many more to get through, and some clients needed bathing and putting to bed.

Mum always felt sorry for them and said she didn't mind. Occasionally they were only there five minutes, or didn't turn up at all. Some of them had poor spoken English, and a ninety year old woman, hard of hearing, had a real problem with this.

There is no consistency, no standards adhered to and I suspect the pay is so poor, that the job doesn't attract many people who are prepared to work their socks off like Joan.

She found my mum very poorly one morning, after she hadn't been to bed at all, and she took care of her until the ambulance came.

Again, she did more than her brief, and I will never cease to be grateful to her, and those like her. They are thin on the ground.