Carer who came back out of retirement to do job she loves strikes silver in major national awards

A highly experienced carer who loves her job so much that she came out of retirement to look after vulnerable adults has struck silver in major national awards.

Celia Callaghan had only been at home for two weeks when she realised she missed the life so much she had to return to work. And at the age of 61 she became a support and rehabilitation practitioner at a residential care home run by Integra Community Living Options in Rhonda Cynon Taf.

Away from work Celia, who lives at Gilfach Goch near Tonyrefail, also finds time to help care for her daughter who suffers from mental health problems and her grand-daughter who has a physical disablility.

It is this amazing dedication and commitment that has seen Celia take silver in the Outstanding Service category, sponsored by Hallmark Care Homes, of the 2016 Wales Care Awards, known as the social care Oscars.

The awards, now in their 14th year, are in association with Care Forum Wales, a not-for-profit organisation set up to give independent care providers a single professional voice with which to speak on one of the most important issues of our time – how to provide better quality care for those who need it most.

The glittering presentation ceremony was held at City Hall in Cardiff with opera singer Wynne Evans, famous as Gio Compario from the Go Compare TV adverts, acting as master of ceremonies.

Celia is originally from Pontyclun near Llantrisant. She started work in a local factory when she left school but soon decided it was caring that she really wanted to do.

She said: “I’d not long lost my mum at the age of 41. She had worked in a local hospital and when she died a friend of hers suggested that I try the same type of work.

“So when I was 16 I began as a cadet nurse at the Hensol NHS hospital near my home working with people with mental health problems.

“I later became a nursing assistant at the same hospital and was there until it closed in 2003.

“From there I went to another NHS unit in Tonyrefail looking after people with challenging behaviour living in specially adapted accommodation.

“I retired from there last year when I reached 60 but after only  two weeks at home I missed the life so much I decided I wanted to start work again because I wasn’t ready to retire.”

That’s when Celia landed her present job at Integra’s Ty Nant residential care home at Thomastown in RCT, which is for men aged over 18 who benefit from time-limited support, often following discharge from hospital, to help them adjust successfully to living in the community.

Celia explained: “Ty Nant has three adjacent houses and two flats which are fully equipped to give the residents everything they need to adapt to independent everyday living.

“They need support in their activities of daily living such as cooking, cleaning and generally looking after themselves properly. We help them to increase their independence and focus on achieving goals meaningful to each individual.

“Ty Nant has had lots of successes with clients moving on and whenever we do it gives you a good feeling and lots of job satisfaction, so I’m really glad I decided to go back to work.”

Celia, who is divorced, has two children, 38-year-old Simon who also works for Integra as a senior care practitioner, and a daughter, Lisa, 43, who suffers from mental health problems.

Although Lisa is able to live on her own, Celia gives her lots of help and support at times when she needs it.

She has also helps to care for her grand-daughter – Simon’s daughter – who suffers from a debilitating skin condition, taking her to regular hospital appointments and looking after her during holiday periods.

Celia said: “Caring for people is what I’ve done all my life and is just second nature to me. My late stepmother suffered from dementia so I helped my dad with her, cooking meals for them and doing the shopping.”

In her award nomination a senior colleague praises Celia for her “commitment, compassion and unwavering dedication”, adding that she is “never anything other than happy, pleasant and always a joy to work with.”

Mario Kreft MBE, the Chair of Care Forum Wales, said the standard of entries was extremely high.

He added: “There are only winners here tonight so it is only fitting that the finalists will receive a gold, silver or bronze Wales Care Award.

“I trust that they will continue to inspire those around them as role models and encourage others to aspire to even greater heights in the months and years to come.

“This awards ceremony is our opportunity to pay tribute and to celebrate the talent and commitment that is improving the quality of life for thousands and thousands of people throughout Wales.

“We take our hats off to them.”