The Woman Who Would Not Take Off Her Shoes; in which I discuss my Disappointment with Home Carers lack of Respect

Last week I Tweeted about an incident with my Home Care. I was so happy to have supportive responses from my followers. Thank you all. Where would I be without your support?

Let’s call her Mary*- I don’t know if that is her real name for she never introduced herself. Mary* was the Woman Who Would Not Take Off Her Shoes.

Because my mobility is restricted, I keep my front door open all day. That may sound daft to you, but I have a distinctive squeak on my gate, so I always know when someone is coming to the door. Usually, the Home Care let themselves in, and shout up the stairs to tell me who is here. I’m quite used to the routine with the regulars, and they are used to me. They come in and get cracking with downstairs jobs until I’m ready to get in and out of the shower and get dressed.

Mary* came all the way into my house, through the open door, and right up into my bedroom, wearing her outdoor trainers. She had evidently been walking through wet mud– her trainers were very muddy, as were her trouser cuffs. And she was wearing her coat, her big, padded winter coat; and carrying her rucksack.

I asked her, “Please would you mind taking your shoes off? We don’t wear shoes in the house.”

“No, sorry, I can’t. Health and Safety.”

“What do you mean? Don’t you have some inside shoes?”

“No. We’ve been through this before, we don’t take our shoes off when were on the job.”

It might be hard for her to understand the implications of this. For me, this is a direct violation of my express wishes and an intrusion into my living space. My carpet is a little symbolic- I saved for a long time to afford it, because I considered it important for my family. It’s warm, and it’s clean. Nobody in the family is allowed to wear shoes on the new carpet- visitors may occasionally visit the bathroom, but no-one comes into the bedrooms with shoes on at all. Apart, that is, from the Home Care.

But I am almost complete in the transformation from assertive health professional to patient patient. Knowing better than to argue with the Great God Healthandsafety I merely fired off angry Tweets.

This isn’t the first time this has happened to me. During the recent wintry spell, I noticed globs of snow and grit falling off my Home Care’s wellies. We’ll call this lady Nora*. She was wearing wellies in my bedroom. I have a good enough relationship with Nora* to appeal to her on a personal level,

“…please, would you bring some slippers to wear next time? Look what you’re doing to the carpet!”

She agreed, and ever since she has been happy to oblige.

The management of this service see no irony in sending people to help me with personal care and domestic tasks who are doing more to mess up the house than I am. I leave the house (perhaps) twice a month for essential appointments. When I do, I am in a wheelchair. I am confident in saying that one thing I am sure I am not doing is muddying up my carpet.

When I was dressed (of course, Mary* had to come back up to the bedroom to help me get dressed, tracking more mud through) I went downstairs. Stairs are my own personal nightmare. The action required to travel up or down a stair is a lateral scissor- and that means pain. When I go downstairs, I need to sit, straight away. I have a place on the sofa, with cushions arranged (the night before) to maximise my comfort. No-one is allowed to sit in my space- anyone who does immediately hops out as soon as I appear, because they understand it’s one of the only places that I am anything like comfortable.

Not Mary*. Rather than use the coat hooks on the back of the front door, Mary* had chosen to use the clear area of sofa with many cushions, a footstool in front and a crutch to the side, as a coat-rack and bag-stand. Clearly, the comfort of her accessories was of paramount importance. Unusual choice, but okay, she doesn’t know me, she’ll realise.

“Excuse me” I said, and moved the coat over slightly to get to the seat. Mary* made no effort to move her belongings. I had to suggest she use the coat-hooks on the back of the door. I wasn’t giving her any special treatment- I say the same thing to all the members of my family on a regular basis- “hang your coat up and put your shoes away” is almost a mantra in our house. Is it unusual to expect people to use a coat-hook?

All it takes is a packet of overshoes in order to help me feel respected- or they could even bring “inside shoes” with them.

And to use a coat-hook.

I decided to approach Nora* about this, the next time she was on duty. I explained how I felt and asked her to please bring some overshoes for me to keep in the house for when a Home Carer has forgotten or claims to be ignorant of the existence of overshoes. It’s awkward because I could make a complaint, but I would rather sort out issues like this without there being a formal record of dissatisfaction with the service. So I’m hoping that the next time I encounter Mary* we will avoid another episode!


So far, no overshoes have arrived. the Home Care still continue to tread through the house daily with their outside shoes on. What is worse is that my baby is now nearly 6 months old. This means she spends lots of time on her belly, on the floor, rolling around, and generally finding all the buttons that combined result in the function: crawling. This means I put down baby blankets so that I now she is always in contact with clean floor. Now, the Home Care have taken to treading over the baby blankets in their outside shoes.

Suggestions, anybody? What’s the protocol for dealing with this?

* Mary and Nora are pseudonyms

Leave a comment


  1. Trish

     /  February 12, 2011

    Sounds like the only way forward is to make a well worded complaint stressing the ‘young baby’ in the house factor. Have you tried contacting PALS , they can be good as a go between?

  2. I posted a link to this on my blog: Shoes Off at the Door, Please

    I would be horrified if somebody did not respect my wishes and wore shoes in my home.

  3. As a Health Professional myself, and a mother, I would contact the agency and file a formal complaint. You have now tried the interpersonal option, and it has not been effective. I think asking for cleanliness is not unreasonable, and that your insistence on using the coat rack is something that is just expected of guests in one’s home.

  4. Thanks guys! wow- it seems this has touched a nerve with quite a few of us- I’m hoping this doesn’t mean this is a common thing we experience with carers?

    Progress today: Nora* was on duty, and I reminded her that I had asked her to pick up some overshoes at the depot. she popped back to the car and actually got a pair of overshoes!! now I have a pair at the door and anyone who turns up without them will be prompted to pop them on, pronto.

    I’m sure your support helped me have the confidence to challenge her again. Thank you.

  5. Wow… it’s amazing how policy overcomes sensitivity to client needs – thank goodness for cultural sensitivity in NZ which means that for Maori (but for many NZer’s) removing shoes at the front door is mandatory – any health worker wouldn’t think twice! The first thing we teach our students to observe for is piles of shoes at a front door – cue – remove yours… the second thing – even if there isn’t a pile – offer to remove shoes! Perhaps you should move our way????

    And I do know what you say about baby blankets -I used to have a sheepskin for our daughters to lie on and it always amazed me when people just tromped across it!

    So pleased you continued to assert your rights – but why you had to be the one to provide the overshoes – I don’t know – they should be issued for all staff to have to use where required! 🙂

  6. Hi Claire. I am an OT that works in people’s homes. I remove my shoes at the door or else bring indoor shoes – it is just common courtesy. You deserve to be treated with respect – I would make a complaint. Our workplace health and safety recommends we bring indoor shoes, and their’s should too.

  7. Thank you for your support Merrolee and Linda. It’s incredible to me that this has become one of my bugbears, and also that it sometimes seems beyond my capabilities to sort it out.
    Even though I now have overshoes, I am still finding resistance from staff who seem to be offended when I ask them to remove their shoes or wear the overshoes. Most staff claim they have never been expected to do this when working as Home Carers. I’m sure your clients will appreciate you for paying them this small courtesy.

  8. Claire

     /  March 1, 2011

    Nora has brought a pair of slippers to keep in my house so that she doesn’t need to wear overshoes- I could’ve hugged her 😉

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