A change of career by an Anglesey man has paid dividends not only for him but for residents of a Bangor nursing home.
For the dedication shown by Chris Balahura in the five years since he started work at the Glyn Menai Dementia Care Centre in Treborth has now put him in line for a prestigious award.
The 38-year-old father-of-two has been shortlisted in the category for Residential Care Practitioner in this year’s Wales Care Awards. The awards are organized by Care Forum Wales to recognize exceptional practice in the care sector and Chris’s category is sponsored by the Older People’s Commissioner.
His role as a care assistant is one to which he quickly adapted even though it is completely different from his previous jobs.
Born and brought up in Stafford, he trained as a mechanic and later worked as a domestic appliance engineer.
“But when I became an apprentice mechanic some of my friends became nurses and it is something I always fancied doing,” he said.
After moving to live in Benllech he decided to take the plunge and began work at Glyn Menai, which is part of the Fairways Care group.
“I only intended staying 12 or 18 months and then going on college to gain nursing qualifications but I am still here. I really enjoy it and the residents are like an extended family,” said Chris.
It was his work with one particular elderly resident called Ron which particularly impressed his colleagues and Fairways director Mark Bailey, who nominated him for the award.
When Ron, who had no family, arrived at Glyn Menai in 2009 Chris immediately developed a close relationship with him and assured him that he would not die alone.
In his dying days Chris visited him regularly and was with him when he died even though Chris was supposed to be celebrating his wedding anniversary that night.
“We all say we want our carers to go that extra mile – to let our residents feel loved – and I believe that is exactly what Chris did for Ron…because he loved Ron,” said Mark.
“Many of the nurses who work with Chris have commented on his innate ability to reach people with dementia and many have suggested that he should be recognized in some way.”
Chris said Ron was “a lovely bloke” but that what he did was no more than any other carer would have done.
“I didn’t feel I was going the extra mile and feel overwhelmed to have been nominated,” he said.
Outside work Chris, whose surname comes from his Ukrainian grandfather, enjoys sub-aqua diving, and he loves exploring around the Anglesey coast, but that has been put on hold recently as he has been extending the family bungalow.
He will be taking time off, however, to attend the awards ceremony to be held at City Hall, Cardiff, on November 6.
“I am looking forward to it as everyone says what a good night it is,” he said.
He still plans to study for his nursing qualifications and to specialize in the mental health field.
Mario Kreft MBE, the Chair of Care Forum Wales, said the Wales Care Awards had gone from strength to strength.
He said: “The event is now firmly established as one of the highlights in the Welsh social care calendar and are seen as the Oscars of social care.
“The aim is to recognise the unstinting and often remarkable dedication ofour 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.
“It is a pleasure to honour the contribution of all the finalists. Each and every one of them should be very proud of their achievement.”