This LGBT+ student stepped up to care for the elderly through the pandemic

SPONSORED: When the coronavirus pandemic forced countries around the world to go into lockdown, most of us did our bit by just staying at home and obeying the restrictions.

But some everyday heroes used that moment to step up. One was occupational therapy student Rachel Golby, 24, from Exeter, southwest England.

She chose to serve on the frontline – delivering personal care to the elderly in their homes.

Her work wasn’t without sacrifice – she wasn’t able to see her girlfriend for three months. But it also came with huge job satisfaction and inspiration for her future career.

And when GSN and Pink Lady® Apples asked people in the UK to nominate their everyday heroes from the pandemic, Rachel’s mom, Sue Gannon, put her name forward.

She told us: ‘When lock down started she did not hesitate to do what she could to do something to help. Rachel was a first year occupational therapy student at the time.

‘When students were sent home Rachel wasted no time contacting a care agency offering her services, despite never having experienced looking after an older adult.

‘She was offered a job and soon got the hang of delivering personal care to the elderly. She often worked double shifts and would be called to work extra hours at short notice.

‘Not once did she complain despite working in hot weather in PPE and often going for long periods of time without a break.’

‘I am not very good at sitting still’

As Rachel told us that, like us all, she was ‘confused and shocked’ when the UK went into lockdown in March.

She had been about to start a nine-week placement for her university course in Bristol but instead was told to go home.

She said: ‘I am not very good at sitting still so I looked at what jobs I could get. But my dad and step mum worked in healthcare as well and said we need carers. So I got a job.’

To get started she undertook a week of face-to-face training and completed a care certificate course. But before long she was helping vulnerable and elderly people with essential needs like washing themselves, cleaning, and cooking.

She said: ‘I was often helping the most vulnerable people who may need help getting out of bed. So you had to give them breakfast, lunch and dinner, keep their house clean and tidy and feed pets.

‘Also having a good conversation was so important. Sometimes the only people they would see in a day were the carers.’

‘I have definitely learned about myself’

Of course, working with some of the most at-risk people for COVID-19 meant Rachel had to be extra careful. And that meant some personal sacrifices.

She said: ‘To be honest, I wasn’t too worried because I knew I was using the PPE appropriately and maintaining hygiene.

‘But I didn’t do much outside of work and I didn’t see my partner for about three months. So I took it quite seriously.’

Her partner is Bethany, 26, also from Exeter, who is studying optometry.

Rachel and Beth.
Rachel and Beth. Rachel Golby

Rachel recalled: ‘It was obviously frustrating. When we were at uni we saw each other every day but when we went back home we both had to live in separate houses.

‘And she was working at Iceland [grocery store] so was coming into contact with lots of different people, so we had to be careful.’

Despite that, Rachel feels lucky.

‘I have definitely learned about myself. I have learned I am happy to step up which I didn’t realize.

‘None of my friends got jobs during the pandemic, they just went home and chilled. But it has helped me gain a lot more experience and confidence in the profession that I wanted to go for.

‘I learned so much in the four months doing care work, just how to communicate with people alone was invaluable.’

In fact, she has now switched her course to paramedic science – as she wanted a bigger challenge. It will hopefully land her on the frontline of healthcare for a very long time to come.

Meanwhile Sue added: ‘I have experience of working with the elderly and to think my daughter was making a difference to someone else’s life made me so proud of her.’

As a little thank you for all her hard work, we’ve sent a Pink Lady® Apples spa hamper package to Rachel and a little gift to Sue.

About Pink Lady® Apples

Pink Lady® apples are known around the world as the delicious, fizzy everyday snack.

This year, Pink Lady® worked with GSN’s Digital Pride to find everyday heroes in our community. The competition online and in Co-Op stores saw people who’d done so much for others getting a luxurious spa hamper package as a reward for all their hard work.

Kyla Flynn from Pink Lady® said:

‘We’re proud of our collaborations and relationship with Gay Star News and delighted to be involved with Digital Pride.

‘We know our Pink Lady® apple fans are part of the LBGTQ+ community and want to make sure their voices are heard and represented.

‘It’s been a difficult and strange time for everyone recently, which is why we wanted to spread a little bit of joy with our pamper hampers. Being kind and respectful to each other has never been more important.’

Pink Lady® is a GSN client.


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