On Monday this week we had our fire alarm service, this had been delayed a few months, but I felt it was critical it took place. It was planned with military precision, the engineer had a precise time he had to arrive, I was with him at all times cleaning behind him (he was in full PPE), the residents were shielded away from him. The residents were moved into the garden for his arrival. When he had left I went into the garden, to find a calm oasis of smiling faces, which turned into an impromptu dancing event. Clapping, cheering, laughing. The birds were singing, the flowers were in bloom. Later on we had a story telling game, all the residents adding bits to the story. In the other lounge the residents were watching family videos of great grandchildren racing around and singing. The residents are fine, happy and safely cocooned, we continue to keep smiling behind the masks and do everything in our power to keep everyone safe.
Last week I had a week away from LTC. Anyone who knows me knows that switching off is not something I am very good at. During the pandemic I have been encouraging all staff to take time off, there is a tendency to just keep on working. All of our staff have cancelled holidays and would prefer to carry forward holiday, but not only would this cause issues later in the year or early next year with everyone wanting time off at the same time, but it is important for staff to have time away from the home and the residents.
For social care staff and healthcare workers we have not had the lockdown time to tidy cupboards / do Joe wicks workout / homeschool. It has been been a stressful time, pressured, confusing, scary, but equally we have all had a purpose, a goal, and LTC has been our safe little bubble, keeping our residents and each other safe.
So actually switching off is hard for everyone. I used the time to just hang out with my family and be there if my teenage children did need me.... rather than be at the care home, taking an urgent call from the home / families, PHE, Dept of Health etc etc. But I used that time away from the care home to also speak to other care homes, chat about best practice and share ideas.
On Tuesday last week I had a very distressing call. It was with a care home that had lost more than 30% of their residents to Covid 19. It is not my story to tell but suffice to say it was a heartbreaking story. The manager of the home was so open and keen to share her experience. She had decades of nursing experience and it was very clear that this was an impressive nursing home, they had done everything right but very early on in the pandemic, Covid 19 entered the building. She directed me to this programme which was aired on newsnight in June. I urge everyone to watch it.
I reflected on that conversation and it made it crystal clear to me that despite pushback that I may receive, minimising the risk of transmission of Covid 19 into the home must continue to be my main focus. At times decisions I take may not be popular. Anyone who has read my previous blog entries knows that I have expressed concerns about some of our residents wellbeing due to staff wearing facemasks all day long, for a few residents this negative impact continues, but the use of facemasks is a critical step to reduce the risk of asymptomatic transmission and ensuring our residents safety is paramount. Guidelines changed yesterday to say that facemarks must be worn by all and this includes everyone in the care home at all times - whether cleaning or cooking, or just servicing a boiler.
Guidelines also changed about visitors yesterday, recommending that visitors should be limited to a single constant visitor (socially distanced wearing PPE). In recent weeks there has been much in the news and on social media about residents in care homes (particularly those with dementia) suffering without visitors. Quotes are made about residents wellbeing being so negatively impacted without visitors. I am certain that in the majority of care homes residents wellbeing is being focused on at all times, and residents are happy, loved and settled, even without visitors. Whereas it is awful having to limit family visits, these visits continue to represent an additional real risk to our residents. I have individual risk assessments in place for all residents to understand the risk of external visitors - because for every single resident their circumstances are different. I am hugely grateful to the families or our residents who have been so supportive of my decisions regarding visiting their loved ones.
I will continue to hold firm and do everything that I believe is the right way to minimise the risk with the best interests of the residents and staff, even if those decisions are not always popular.
Regular Testing of staff and residents will begin shortly. We did receive the test kits, but these were recalled earlier this week due to safety issues and we have been advised that there will be a few weeks delay until we received the new test kits. Staff are tired, PPE is uncomfortable, guidelines change often weekly, sometimes more often. But I know that together, as a team, we continue to do everything we possibly can to protect our residents and each other.