Within LTC the families of our residents have been wonderfully supportive. I have tried to communicate honestly and regularly. They understand the rationale for the decisions we take, and I am grateful for the support they have given us all. We have tried to involve the families of our residents with life in the home. They may not be physically with us, but we make sure that they are aware of everything that is going on, not just with phone calls and emails, but with weekly videos of all that has happened .
Over the last few weeks however one of the most challenging things to deal with from a staff morale point of view has been the news reports about visiting restrictions in care homes. Dementia charities and mental health campaigners have been pushing for loved ones of residents in care homes to allow more frequent access to care homes by treating them as care workers. A pilot in England is being planned which would mean visitors would be tested weekly and given training in PPE.
The Alzheimers Society report that "People's loved ones with dementia have felt bewildered, abandoned, and in many tragic cases, faded away from the lack of personalised care, understanding and love that only family members can bring". To read that as a carer feels like a kick in the teeth, as a carer our prime focus is care, and to read reports that our most vulnerable feel bewildered, abandoned and are fading away is hard to stomach. Over the past year it seems that the media continues to focus on the negatives.
I can not speak for all care homes, but the quote above could not be further from the truth. Personalised care is central to everything that carers do. It is the bread and butter of what care is all about. I can hand on heart say that I believe that none of our residents feel bewildered, or abandoned. As a team we can never replace the closest family members, but the love, support, laughter and care shown to all our residents is a constant.
Personalised care is all about treating each resident as an individual. In this respect how can there be a one sized fits all approach to visiting? The residents must be central to that decision, and then the circumstances of the care home, staff and risk profile of the visitors have to be considered.
Any decision about visitors not only impacts one resident, but possibly all the residents. The decision also impacts the staff and other family members who feel safer if no visitors are allowed.
The proposed "pilot" is to treat visitors in the same way as key workers. That would include weekly testing and full PPE and training. I wonder if that will also include the many personal sacrifices that carers made over the last eight months and continue to make, many carers are effectively self isolating apart from when working to ensure that they minimise any risk to our vulnerable residents. Carers are not able to work in multiple locations, so does that mean that if visitors are treated as key workers will they also make those personal sacrifices?
I know I speak for everyone who works in social care when I say that the policy regarding visitors is far from clear, it is upsetting for us all. We hate the fact that due to Covid19 we can no longer have a home full of our residents loved ones. We do not want to stop family members seeing their loved ones, but equally we must do all we can to keep them safe.
And with regard to the news reports about residents being "lonely" "fading away" "abandoned" "bored" nothing could be further from the truth. In the last seven days our residents have enjoyed a pub afternoon with traditional pub food and games, twice a week zoom calls with quizzes with teenagers taking part in the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme, reading "100 steps" by Captain Tom, playing with the pets, gardening, flower arranging, planning the next months menus, loads of singing, loads of dancing, and lots and lots of laughter.
Our residents tell me they do not feel abandoned, they told me they feel loved, supported and safe.