It has been a while since I have updated this blog, I have been trying to work out what to write, where to start, what to share.
Everyone is safe, we have remained Covid free. Our home is full of laughter, fun, dancing, singing, and pets. What has been a great success since September is our three times a week zoom calls with a handful of teenagers who are volunteering to speak with our residents and it shows how great it is for young and old to connect with each other. Some lovely relationships have been built and the residents really look forward to the calls (and so do the teenagers too). They have also sent some of the most beautiful letters and delicious cakes, which we have all enjoyed reading and eating. On the quiz front, so far, our residents are winning in the general knowledge stakes, however, the teenagers seem to have the edge on the maths based questions. Our home is full of Christmas cheers, with fairy lights twinkling everywhere.
Behind the scenes, the analogy of a duck could not be more apt. On the surface I am definitely not serene like a swan, more busy like a duck, but beneath the surface I am paddling as if my life depends on it... and it really could be life and death for our residents. But this time I have pond weed pulling me down. I know that I speak for thousands of people like me working in a care home.
I have written in the past about communication and this continues to be imperative. No decision that I take is black and white, there is no right or wrong answer, decisions have to be balanced, often taking into account the balance between physical health and mental health. The balance between trying to avoid Covid-19 at all costs but ensuring our residents are happy and visits from loved ones are possible.
Almost a year ago to the day was our 2019 Christmas Party, then our home was full of visitors, all ages, the home was full of laughter, singing, and the corridors were bursting at the seams. I long for that to happen again.
We have built a conservatory in the last few months so we now have a visiting pod to enable safe visits to take place. We then had to put in floor to ceiling doors to segregate the areas. Next week we being lateral flow testing, quick acting tests for all visitors. Consent forms for the vaccinations are in place. It all sounds so positive, and it really is, I have high hopes for 2021.
However, behind every good bit of news, every step forward, the pond weed continues to pulls us down. Earlier in the summer staff testing was announced, aside from the initial massive delays in getting results, behind the scenes we have to enter every single staff members details every single time we test - name, dob, ethnicity, role, where they work, where they live, mobile number, address. Every single time. Upload functionality doesn't work. We test staff on two different days each week. This takes in excess of three hours every week, time not spent with the residents or staff.
The Government announced that "visiting is permitted" not explaining that every care home had been sent pages and pages and pages of guidelines to allow safe visiting, things like, one way systems in care homes, separate entrances for visitors, windows open at all times (in winter I know!) (!), again the paperwork is enormous, again it took hours to justify why certain things could not be done - windows open when someone is in their 90's is not possible. One way systems in a care home for those living with dementia is not feasible etc etc.
Lateral Flow Testing is being rolled out from next week, this is hailed as an additional defence against an outbreak, I have spent in excess of 12 hours working out the process. The guidance notes are more than 60 pages long. Tests have to be "logged online" by the visitor "using an iPhone" - clearly not everyone has an iPhone, and there is no mobile reception where our home is located. This has not been considered in the guidance. What is not announced is that the Lateral Flow Tests identify less than 50% of positive cases compared to the PCR tests (this is shared in the Department of Health webinars). We will of course continue to do everything we can to ensure the safety of our residents but the administration around these tests is enormous.
Vaccinations are clearly going to be the game changer. Care Home residents and staff are first in line. We have not received any details about when. I totally appreciate the massive issues in working out how the vaccinations will be delivered, but some honest communication would be appreciated, and also before the fanfare message is delivered to the general public, some of the underlying processes have been considered.
I have written before about communication and I continue to be hugely grateful for the support I receive from our residents families. I have been honest every step of the way, I have admitted I do not have the answers, I am trying my absolute best, I will continue to over communicate with our families and admit that processes are changing daily, sometimes hourly, based on changes to official guidelines.
Infection Control Fund payments have been made to support care homes to enable safe visiting / cohorting of residents, and whilst this is hugely appreciated, we need honesty and we need our opinions to be sought before announcements are made and before unworkable guidance is rolled out.
So the pond weed continues. This week I am away from the home, S and I decided that I would use this week away to focus on our processes, our controls, filling in the mountain of paperwork that is now required. I feel like my arm has been removed not being to be with the residents, but I know that the amazing staff are doing everything possible to keep all the residents happy, content and ready for Christmas.
So, apologies for the delay in writing this blog entry. I will keep on paddling hard and getting through the pond weed..... and then I will go and finish wrapping 18 stockings with individual presents for our residents.
We are committed to ensuring that our residents will have the best Christmas possible.