A care worker was paid the ultimate compliment when the family of a man who had been under her care asked her to deliver the eulogy at his funeral.
That demonstrated the special close relationship that Paula Manfield had developed with the man, for whom she had provided end-of-life care for over four years.
Thanks to her, the man, identified only as S, had been able to remain at home, which meant that he was able to enjoy a life full of smiles, care and love until the end.
That ability to assess and meet the needs of people with profound disabilities has now put Paula, an operations manager for the Cardiff-based Innovate Trust, in line for a prestigious award.
She has been nominated for one of this year’s Wales Care Awards which are organized by Care Forum Wales to recognize outstanding work in the care sector.
Paula, who lives in Fairwater, is shortlisted in the category for excellence in palliative and end-of-life care, which is sponsored by Hallmark Care Homes.
The awards will be presented at a ceremony in City Hall, Cardiff, on October 21, when the host will once again be the popular tenor and radio presented Wynne Evans, well-known as Gio Compario in the Go Compare TV adverts.
The evening, which is sponsored by Ontex UK, will be streamed live on the night.
Paula, 53, has worked in the care sector for 25 years and for the past six years has been Innovate Trust, a provider of supported living.
She was nominated by her line manager Mark Phillips, with additional plaudits from colleagues and staff from Cardiff Council who have been impressed by her work
“She has dealt with extremely challenging circumstances but has remained a constant source of inspiration and support to all that work with her and alongside her,” said Mark.
“She excels when working with and amongst her teams, mentoring and supporting them through many complex and difficult situations, and is a fierce advocate for those with profound disabilities.”
He cited the case of S as typical of the care and support she provides to ensure the best outcome for them.
Another example he gave was that of a woman with athentoid cerebral palsy who became very ill late last year.
“Again Paula demonstrated a level of compassion and tenaciousness that far exceeded anyone’s expectations, fiercely advocating for her in ensuring all her needs were met and that she could be where she needed to be,” said Mark.
Paula, who has oversight of four homes in North Cardiff, said she saw a key part of her role was in speaking up for those who cannot speak up for themselves.
“I try to make their voices heard and that can mean having to read their facial expressions or body language,” she said.
Before starting work in the care sector Paula worked for Tesco but had some personal experience in the field as “babysitter” for two uncles and nephew with learning difficulties.
Much of her spare time is taken up by her four grandchildren but her constant companion is Maggie, her four-year-old Labrador.
“I take her for a walk every morning and evening, and also for long walks. She is great company and helps me clear my mind,” she said.
Mario Kreft MBE, Chair of Care Forum Wales, said the aim of the Wales Care Awards was to recognise the unstinting and remarkable dedication of unsung heroes and heroines across Wales.
He said: “The social care sector is full of wonderful people because it’s not just a job, it’s a vocation – these are people who go the extra mile for others.
“During the Covid crisis, this fantastic workforce rose magnificently to the challenge, putting their own lives on the line to do everything they possibly could to safeguard the people for whom they provide care.
“Unfortunately, it has taken a global pandemic for many other people to realise how important and how significant our social care workforce is.
“Their incredible contribution was summed up best in the powerful and emotive words of the song, Heroes of our Heart, written by the acclaimed poet Mererid Hopwood and sung by Sir Bryn Terfel, which was set to the famous tune of Men of Harlech. The message that the diolch should last forever is one that we should never forget.
“If you don’t recognise the people who do the caring you will never provide the standards people need and never recognise the value of people who need care in society.
“All the nominees deserve to be lauded and applauded and it’s a real pleasure to honour the contribution of all the finalists.
“I congratulate all the individuals who have shown outstanding dedication and professionalism. Every one of them should be proud of their achievement.
“They are Wales’s finest.”