A hotel worker turned carer who discovered a passion for care work after supporting her elderly grandmother is now in line for a top industry award.

Michelle Reilly, aged 38, has enjoyed a rapid rise to success in the three years since embarking on a career in social care at Gwyddfor Residential Home in Bodedern, on Anglesey.

As well as a growing list of responsibilities and promotion to senior care assistant and activities coordinator, the mum-of-two is now celebrating a place in the final of one of the industry’s most prestigious events – the Wales Care Awards 2018.

Now in their 15th 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.

The keen fundraiser, who lives in Llanrhyddlad, Holyhead, has beaten tough competition to be shortlisted for the Residential Care Practitioner gong, sponsored by the Older People’s Commissioner.

Michelle will now attend a glittering awards ceremony at City Hall in Cardiff on Friday, October 19 where the winners will be announced.

“I’m over the moon and ecstatic,” she said.

“I’ve never won anything before, it was a shock but it’s nice to get recognition. Everybody has been congratulating me.

“I came into care three years ago with no professional experience and now I feel like I should have been here years and years ago. I feel like it’s a job for the rest of my life.”

Michelle, who has two children, Leo, 13, and Summer, four, grew up in Dundee, Scotland, attending Braeview Academy in Dundee.

She moved to Wales 10 years ago with her Welsh partner Oswyn, 34, and worked for four years at the Anchorage Hotel in Holyhead undertaking bar responsibilities and cleaning.

“I was ready for a new change,” she said.

“I looked after my nan, Agnes Moncrieff, when I was younger as she had mobility problems. I used to help her get ready in the mornings and prepare her meals.

“When I was looking for jobs there seemed to be an abundance of care jobs and I thought I’d see how I got on.”

Michelle’s current position includes arranging the activities programme for the residents, many of whom have dementia, as well as delivering hands-on, therapeutic care.

She recently organised a horse racing night featuring the home’s award-winning interactive screen while residents are also being entertained with pioneering Virtual Reality technology to take a trip down memory lane.

She also oversees the home’s fundraising work which recently included a joint staff climb up Snowdon, raising £4,000 for the Alzheimer’s Society.

“We always like to think outside the box,” said Michelle, who has already completed her NVQ level two and three and is now doing level 5 advanced leadership.

“I just love my job, it’s so rewarding. The simplest things give so much joy to someone and I receive as much joy being able to make it happen.

“One of the most satisfying aspects of my work is building rapport with the clients. When you meet a client for the first time, they might constantly apologise for needing your assistance but over time you get past that and just have a chat and work together to make sure their needs are met.

“We have a fantastic team of staff here and everyone supports each other.”

Nominating Michelle for her award, Glyn Williams, director of the home, said: “Michelle has taken to caring for the elderly like a duck to water.

“Michelle’s niche is in dementia care and therapeutic activities. She is like a sponge, soaking up every snippet of new dementia care learning which comes her way.”

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.”