How a little bit of Welsh makes a big difference in Social care
7 March 2023
From personal care, to help with day-to-day tasks, running activities or even just having a chat, workers in the care sector make a real difference every day to the lives of the people they care for.
And a big part of offering quality care is making sure that, everyone has the opportunity to be cared for in the language they feel most comfortable speaking.
Whether you’re fluent in Welsh or speak tipyn bach, using any Cymraeg will help create deeper connections as a care worker, and makes a positive difference to social care in Wales.
For many Welsh speakers receiving care, being able to speak in their first language is crucial to their well-being. Many older people will go back to their most familiar language as the years move on, and those with conditions like dementia may only be able to express themselves in their first language.
Speaking in someone’s first language creates a person-to-person bond. It’s more than just words.
Glan Rhos care home in Anglesey believes firmly that using the Welsh language in care – from basic to fluent Welsh – is integral to the service it offers its residents. We heard first-hand from different voices at the home about their perspectives.
Rhian Owen – Care Assistant
Rhian lives locally on Anglesey and is a first language Welsh speaker. Having followed in her mum’s footsteps after leaving school, Rhian has been a care worker for 18 years and finds her role incredibly rewarding. During that time, she’s seen first-hand the difference that using the Welsh language makes to the people she cares for.
“Many of the people we care for find it easier to express themselves in Welsh, so being able to communicate with them using their chosen language makes it easier to assess their needs.
Some of the residents are nervous when they arrive at the home; it’s a huge change in their lives so it’s important that we have some staff in the home that speak Welsh. It puts them at ease, and helps you build an instant relationship with them.
We have a mix of abilities here, not everyone speaks Welsh and some of the staff have learned on the job – you can pick up a lot from listening to co-workers and residents speak.
“It’s work for us, but at the end of the day it’s their home. We must respect them and their wishes.”
Ezelina Dacruz – Cinical Lead Nurse
Ezelina, who is originally from Malawi, has lived in Wales for 18 years and has been learning Welsh as a third language to help improve the standard of care she’s able to offer residents.
“Wherever you are in the world, interacting with someone in their language makes them feel you are a part of them. It builds a connection, and you often find they open up to you more.
“I’ve been a nurse for 23 years. Although I did my training in Malawi, I’ve spent most of my career working here in Wales.
“I’ve never done a Welsh course, but I’ve picked up conversational Welsh from my colleagues over the years and it’s made a huge difference to the care I’m able to offer.
“We often find residents with dementia will go back to speaking the language they spoke when they were young, so having the ability to communicate even basic Welsh to the residents is important.
“You don’t need to know a lot – it can be basic sentences like “Good morning. How are you feeling? Are you in pain?” A little goes a long way.
“The way you interact with residents and their families is so important. We support them medically, physically, and emotionally right until the end. If I’m managing to make them comfortable in this environment, then that’s a highlight for me.”
Wini Jones – family member
A regular volunteer at the home, Wini’s connection to Glan Rhos came after her Aunty Mary became a resident.
“Aunty Mary moved to the home just before the COVID-19 lockdown. Although we were able to talk to her via Skype, it was a period where she couldn’t see her family in person.
“Having friendly staff at the home who could speak to her in Welsh was invaluable and gave her the chance to create a bond with them. It has a real impact on the standard of care here.
“I’ve been volunteering here with Age Cymru ever since the home opened again for visitors after the COVID-19 lockdowns. I help out with visitors, speaking to residents, and it gives me a chance to see my Aunty Mary.
“The home makes an effort to hold cultural activities – singing traditional Welsh hymns and old war songs like ‘It’s a long way to Tipperary’. It keeps a sense of familiarity and consistency in their lives.”
Arfon Môn Owen – resident
Arfon moved to Glan Rhos in 2018. As a first language Welsh speaker, who didn’t speak English growing up, Arfon says that being able to speak Welsh to his carers makes him feel at home.
“For me, being able to speak in my first language here has made a huge difference. I’ve was brought up purely Welsh language, we were never used to speaking English. It’s nice that some of the residents and staff can speak Welsh, it makes me feel at home.
“I love taking part in the activities at Glan Rhos. We play bingo every Thursday and I’ve learnt how to knit. At the moment, I’m creating a pink and white scarf for one of the staff’s daughters.
“Wendy, the activities coordinator, doesn’t speak Welsh but she picks up the odd word from us when we’re knitting.”
Kim Ombler Williams – Care Home Director
Kim and her sister Helen became joint directors of Glan Rhos in XXX after taking the reins from their parents, who opened the home in 1989.
“There are so many opportunities to work in care. We have office staff, cleaners, kitchen staff, nurses, day/night staff, maintenance staff, activities coordinators and more.
“There’s a role for everyone, whatever your skillset, and there are a lot of training opportunities which can be flexible to suit the individual.
“Anglesey has a strong Welsh speaking community, so we always make sure there are staff on the rota who can offer care in the residents’ chosen language. It means we can offer a fully bilingual service here at Glan Rhos.
“Working in care is a vocation. Looking after people and knowing you’ve made a difference to their life gives you a sense of purpose. It’s special.
“Think to yourself – how would you like your mum, dad, nan, grandad to be looked after? We’re here for the residents until the end. Would I change it? Never.”
To someone receiving care, using the Welsh language is more than just words. Find out more about how you can get into a career in care and help transform lives here.