A care home manager whose family heartbreak helped “put her in the shoes” of her clients is in line for a top industry gong.

Karen Rogers, who is manager of Llys y Seren Residential Care Home in Port Talbot, has barely had a day off sick in 30 years’ despite suffering a series of family tragedies and coping with the ongoing needs of her 16-year-old daughter who has learning difficulties.

The 52-year-old lost her younger sister, Gayle Clement, 42, to a heart attack four years ago and became the main carer to her two children. Two years later, she also became the main carer for their mother, Margaret Perry, 78, who suffers with dementia, when their father died of lung cancer.

In the face of grief and despair, Karen’s job helping the elderly kept her going and she is now in the running for one of Wales’ highest accolades – a Wales Care Award.

Celebrating their 15th anniversary this year, the national awards are organised by care industry champions Care Forum Wales which is also toasting 25 years of service this year. They acknowledge the hard work and exceptional performances of those in the care sector.

Karen, who lives in Margam, is in the running for the coveted Leadership and Management in Residential Care gong, sponsored by Christie and Co.

The former Tesco worker, who manages the 60-bed care home owned by the POBL Group, will now attend a glittering awards ceremony at City Hall in Cardiff on Friday, October 19 where the winners will be announced.

“I never dreamt I’d get through to the final, I’m absolutely thrilled,” said Karen, who is married to John Rogers, 48, a science laboratory technician.

“It will help to put Llys Y Seren on the map as another two staff have been nominated for awards this year.

“This is the first time I’ve been nominated, I had no idea I’d get this far.”

Karen, who also has a 21-year-old daughter, took on her first social care role 34 years ago, initially as a care assistant at Morawelon, which has since closed. She then became a care officer and later the assistant manager at Min Yr Afon in 1992 and took on the additional responsibilities of managing Morfa Afon in 2005.

It was while she was managing both homes and preparing to move the 60 residents into the brand new Llys Y Seren that Karen suffered the sudden loss of her sister.

“We closed the two homes and opened another and I lost my sister all at the same time,” she said.

“I have two children of my own and became the main carer for my sister’s children who were 13 and 18 at the time. Somehow, I still managed to move 60 residents into a new home.

“It was very stressful but I had something to focus on and you just get on with things.

“It’s a very rewarding job and I can’t imagine doing anything else. I always say I’m going to retire soon but I’m still here.

“This job has taught me so much. Everybody behaves the way they do for a reason and we must stop and think before we make judgements.”

Karen, whose mother has now moved into Llys Y Seren for round-the-clock support, said her experiences of nursing her mother through dementia has changed the way she handles her job.

“It’s hard when a member of your family is personally affected. You can see the relative’s point of view and know how they feel,” she said.

“I’d like to think it makes me a better manager. I treat our residents the same as I would like my own relatives to be treated.

“It’s lovely to see the residents’ happy and making sure their lives are fulfilled. I live my life through them. I would like to think I’m more compassionate because of my experiences.

“I couldn’t see myself working anywhere else. As a student when I worked at Tesco I’d always have elderly people coming up to me for a chat. I think it’s just in my bloody. I get on better with elderly people.”

Nominating Karen for her award, Catrin Fletcher, director of care and support for the POBL Group, said: “The care home is frequently praised for being a ‘home’ for the residents as the atmosphere and culture created by Karen has ensured people feel safe and secure and that it is their own home.”

Mario Kreft MBE, the Chair of Care Forum Wales, said the Wales Care Awards had gone from strength to strength.

He said: “This year’s ceremony is an even more special occasion because it marks the 15th anniversary of the Wales Care Awards and the 25th anniversary of Care Forum Wales and the event is now firmly established as one of the highlights in the Welsh social care calendar.

“The aim is to recognise the unstinting and often remarkable dedication of our unsung heroes and heroines across Wales.

“The care sector is full of wonderful people because it’s not just a job it’s a vocation – these are the people who really do have the X Factor.

“If you don’t recognise the people who do the caring you will never provide the standards that people need and never recognise the value of the people who need the care in society.

“We need to do all we can to raise the profile of the care sector workforce – they deserve to be lauded and applauded.”