A dedicated care worker who retired from managing care homes so she could go back to working hands-on with her residents has been shortlisted for a prestigious national award.

After working in care management for over 20 years, Prestatyn-based Kathy Duffy decided to return to the ‘front line’ as a care assistant three years ago, with Ty Cariad Dementia Care Centre in Abergele, run by Fairways Care.

And the move has now reaped rewards for the grandmother-of-five who is set to be honoured in this year’s Wales Care Awards, which aims to reward outstanding work in social care.

Kathy has been nominated in the Award category for Excellence in Dementia Care sponsored by All Care South Wales & College Fields Nursing Home and will attend the glittering ceremony at the City Hall in Cardiff on October 18.

The awards ceremony will be hosted by tenor and radio presenter Wynne Evans, better known as Gio Compario from the Go Compare TV ads.

Kathy has now dedicated her Wales Care Award nomination to the memory of her late parents Michael and former nurse Kathleen, who she took time off work to care for before they died.

“It was my parents who got me into care work, and I really do think it was something I was meant to do,” explained Kathy, who is originally from London but moved to North Wales with her husband, Christopher when he returned to his home town 27 years ago.

“I went to a Catholic school in Bexleyheath and the headteacher invited me to apply for a Youth Training Scheme at a care home they ran for retired nuns. I initially said no, I didn’t want to do that, I thought I wanted to work in retail, but my dad said that care was a path I needed to follow. I said I’d give it a week and fell in love with the job!”

After 10 years at the care home, Kathy worked as a hospital auxiliary nurse before relocating to Prestatyn with her husband and two young children. Her career developed and she managed several dementia care facilities in North Wales before changing direction.

“I loved being a manager, but I felt I was becoming too far removed from what I came into care for - getting hands on and looking after as well as spending quality time with my residents,” Kathy added.

Kathy joined the Ty Cariad Dementia Care Centre – an innovative residential facility which consists of four 12-bed ‘households’ that provide bespoke care to people at different stages of the dementia journey – as a care assistant in 2015. And, as Kathy explains, she felt like she had ‘come home’.

“Fairways is the in future dementia care – and I love working there. I started as a night care assistant and really went back to basics, then became a team leader before starting my journey to Care Practitioner and it has really been the best time of my life."

She was put forward for the Wales Care Awards by Fairways Care’s managing director Mark Bailey, and the manager Donna Woodruff who said she was the obvious candidate for the nomination.

“It was no surprise that Kath’s abilities and talent saw her promoted and she now works full-time as a highly-skilled care worker providing support to our nursing staff by working hands on with our care teams,” said Mark.

“I have testimonies from Kath’s manager Donna as well as from families of residents she has cared for. All speak of her dedication and care. She really is a wonderful person.”

Mario Kreft, 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.

“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."