Sun was streaming into the home last Wednesday. The carers were busy (as always, there is never any down time when working in care). I had been cooking in the morning (and I was rather proud of my cottage pie yesterday). Externally I was remaining positive, internally as announcements about social care reform were sinking in, my head was full of questions regarding inconsistencies and yet again it was clear those making decisions were telling half truths and do not understand social care.
In the afternoon a senior carer asked if the team could have coffee with the residents. After a moment of hesitation, I replied “of course”. We spent a lovely 15 minutes in the lounge all enjoying a drink together, staff and residents. One carer showing us the cup song, I found the words online, projected them on the tv. Residents and staff all sung along. One carer had stopped cleaning and was cuddling the daschund with a resident. Two carers sat on the arms of chairs, arms around residents, singing and laughing. I was trying to sing, and I am sure I sounded dreadful. It was how life in a care home should be, filled with love, spontaneity, and laughter. It was the first time that this has happened in a year…. A coffee break together…. The reality is that technically we should not have had a coffee break with the residents….. because we had to remove our masks, however all staff had been tested, all were double vaccinated and at that moment the positives outweighed the risk - at the moment I took the decision that it was the right thing to do. All the residents saw our faces, maskless. I broke all the rules doing this, perhaps it is foolish of me to write this down on the blog, but I will stand by this decision.
It is however a perfect example of one of the many many inconsistencies we live through every day;
· On Saturday one of our residents is going out to see her daughter and son in law for lunch, this has been happening for a few months. It is how it should be, residents leaving care homes and spending time with their family. I have to do a risk assessment for every visit outside of the home. You can not eat with a mask on. This is deemed perfectly acceptable – a resident is able to eat with a family (as it should be) and yet at all times, all staff have to keep their masks on when at work… this means never being able to sit and have a drink or anything to eat with our residents. Yesterday was the first time in over eighteen months that we enjoyed a drink with the residents, the first time in over eighteen months that our residents, whom we regard as family, saw our faces without masks. All staff are testing twice a week with LFT and PCR weekly, vaccines are legally mandated, yet we, who work in a care home, have to keep our masks on whereas residents can leave the home and eat, drink, hold hands, hug and kiss with families and friends….
· From November 11 2021 it will be a legal requirement for all staff and EVERYONE working in a care home to be double vaccinated against covid, even down to an engineer working in the laundry repairing a washing machine (and no interaction with residents or staff). All our staff have been vaccinated. This does NOT apply to families of residents. Another massive inconsistency.
These are smaller inconsistencies compared to the recent announcements;
· Yesterday we were discussing the social care reforms announced in the last 48 hours. I was explaining the changes. One carers response was “So everyone clapped for us last year and said we should be paid more, and yet the government less than a year later takes £5 a week from us”. I believe taxes need to increase to pay for NHS and Social Care reform, I do not agree NI increases were the right way to do this, this will unfairly hit the lowest paid. Staff morale is at an all time low, the NI increases, mandatory vaccines (we have been advised that flu vaccines may be mandated next) which don’t apply to NHS staff and families, lack of staff so existing staff are taking on more, constant testing, changing guidelines, again - inconsistencies at every turn.
· The cap on care which was announced is hugely misleading…. It is right that there should be a cap on care costs…. But the £83K cap is on CARE (STAFF COSTS) not ACCOMMODATION AND FOOD. How care costs versus costs for accommodation and food would be calculated are unclear I anticipate that for most homes the cost of care would be 50% of the total costs, but this is likely to vary enormously between homes. In our area it would mean that for most residential care home residents would hit the cap after almost 3 years. The Local Authority would then cover the cost of the “care” (staff costs). How will this be calculated, what happens when the LA feel that the care costs are too high in a particular home? With the increased threshold the need for LA funded placements are going to be significantly higher.. Where are these beds? And this even ignores that major question of whether funds will actually get to social care due to the enormous pressures on the NHS.
So many questions, so many inconsistencies. In the meantime I will keep focusing on our main goal which is keeping our residents and staff, loved, safe and happy. I just wish those writing the policy would listen to those of us who are actually on the frontline, and specifically those working in social care. Perhaps they should come and work in a care home for just a day…… now, that would be an idea…… any MP’s willing to take on the c