Former dispensing optician goes distance at care industry awards

A former dispensing optician who switched careers to work with older people has been rewarded for her efforts with a top industry award.

Louise Price, 39, scooped silver in the Exceptional Newcomer category of the Wales Care Awards 2016, run by Care Forum Wales. The award, sponsored by Coleg Cambria, was one of a series of gongs which acknowledge the hard work and exceptional performances of those in the care sector.

Louise, who works as a client liaison officer at Penpergwm House Residential Home in Abergavenny, Monmouthshire, collected her accolade at a glittering awards ceremony held at City Hall in Cardiff.

“I honestly didn’t think I would get anywhere as I don’t think I’m anything special, I’m just being me,” said the mother-of-three, who lives in Llanarth, Monmouthshire.

“It was difficult at first to accept that I was worthy of it. I’m incredibly proud and my children are over the moon. We had a little nomination party as it’s nice to show your children that you can achieve things.

“I’m absolutely honoured to be a part of the awards evening.”

Louise spent 10 years of her working career as a dispensing optician in Abergavenny, often tending to elderly customers who were lonely and unsure of the prescription process.

Two years ago, she realised she wanted to make more of a difference to elderly people and applied for a job as an administrator at Penpergwm House Residential Home.

Louise quickly broadened her role and took on responsibility for a number of additional duties including showing new clients and their families around the home and making sure residents were happy with in-house menus and activities.

Within 18 months, she was offered the role of client liaison officer and now spends the majority of her time offering one-to-one companionship, advice and practical help on a range of issues from personal finances and dietary plans through to motivating people to become involved in the home’s social scene and helping them apply for welfare entitlements.

Louise, who grew up in Tregare and attended Monmouth Comprehensive School, became a carer for 12 months before heading off to study business administration at the former University of Glamorgan in Treforest.

Following her education, she became a dispensing optician and remained in the industry for the next 10 years before returning to her original career in care.

“I said to my husband that I had to do something different, said Louise, who is married to Jason and has two sons aged 17 and 14 and a nine-year-old daughter.

“I would spend a lot of time with the older generation who were quite lonely. It was the only time they got to go out all week – to pick up their glasses.

“Sometimes I’d get them a cup of tea and chat, as much as you can in retail. It got me thinking that I wasn’t really doing anything rewarding in my current job.”

Louise quickly learnt the business side of Penpergwm as she sat next to the general manager in the office in her administration role and gradually took on more responsibility.

“I was showing people around the home and it all grew from there,” she said.

“I’m very much a people person and I liked being on the floor and getting involved. I started doing more around admissions and filling the rooms and then helping with activities. I was able to answer a lot of questions without bothering management.

“I was given a new job role as a client liaison officer which I love. I just think everyone needs one in a home. I get told so much by the families and the residents and they are happy they have someone who can sort issues out for them.

“You just need to stop and listen sometimes and take things on board. If the clients are happy then it’s a much better place to live and work in.”

Louise says she’s never been happier at work and has found a job that truly reflects her personality.

“I’m very lucky as sometimes it’s really difficult to find a job to suit your personality,” she said.

“I care so much about everyone. I bounce around the place but I know when to be quiet. I can give that one-to-one support and take a resident off in the car for a coffee and become a friend. I have the flexibility of taking someone out of the home environment.”

Jointly nominating Louise for her award, registered manager Priscilla Llewelyn and general manager Tracey Williams said: “All in all, Louise Price is a young woman who has taken to her work at Penpergwm House like a duck to water.  She is a natural at it and we would not be the same establishment without her.”

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.”