Friday, January 22, 2021

Vaccinated and Fake News!

I am delighted to report that all residents and all staff were vaccinated this week.  Other than the one staff member who tested positive for Covid19 and remains asymptomatic, we have remained Covid free.

We are testing regularly and all is well and calm.  Today every resident had a manicure and we have been enjoying singing along to the Sound of Music.  I was able to sit and chat with every single resident today one on one, they are happy, content and as safe as we can possibly keep them all.

As I type this the ITV news is on in the background in one of the lounge areas in our care home. There is a “ special program “ about the challenges experienced by those living with dementia in care homes.  The headlines talk about how the pandemic has had a detrimental impact on residents with dementia due to the lack of visits from family and friends.  

Apparently ITV did an exclusive survey of over 100 care homes to ask whether the physical and mental health of residents had been Impacted, nine of ten said yes.  We were called, by ITV but asked a different question.

The ITV program will cover claims that the use of anti-psychotic drugs for those living with dementia has increased due the lack of family visits during the pandemic.  From our point of view not one of our residents has been put on an antipsychotic drug during the pandemic.  A professor is quoted saying that  ...”“drugging” has become one of the few tools left to treat serious lockdown anxiety and that the best treatments for agitation are human contact, good nursing care - reassurance, a hug”.  The implication is that care homes up and down the country are drugging residents because they are so unhappy and lonely in the pandemic. The implication is that in care homes residents only receive human contact , care, reassurance and a hug from their family members.  The reality could not be further from the truth, carers treat residents as their loved ones, their Own family members.  The pandemic has brought carer and resident even closer.

The program has not yet been on, but I anticipate that it is going to portray a story of life in care homes during the pandemic in a very unfavorable light.  

Life during the pandemic has been tough for everyone, but I don’t believe these claims are true.  I believe it is scaremongering and for the vast majority of care home residents living with dementia the love, care and affection shown by the tens of thousands of carers who have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic can not be underestimated.

To imply that residents have not had human contact, reassurance and a hug during lockdown is simply incorrect.  It has been really hard on everyone not seeing their loved ones, whether they live in a care home with dementia or not.  

What makes a carers job so much harder in the pandemic is this sort of reporting.  Carers themselves have struggled with not seeing their own families, having the enormous burden of knowing that they are caring for the most vulnerable in society.  Knowing that they will really be on the frontline if there is an outbreak in their care home.  

To every carer who works tirelessly, demonstrating, love, empathy, patience, hard work and ultimate dedication... hold you head up high and be proud.   You are doing a great job.  Ignore the fake news!

Saturday, January 16, 2021

The result we didn't want....

On Monday morning a member of staff tested positive when they were tested with the daily Lateral Flow Test.  They were immediately sent home with a confirmatory PCR Test, that subsequently confirmed the positive result.  

It was what we had feared for the last 10 months; our first positive test.  The staff member is asymptomatic and took no risks, she did everything right.  She feels dreadful, when she has done nothing wrong, but being a carer by nature means that her thoughts are of the residents and other staff.

We had planned for this, the next steps have been ingrained for months.  We were ready.  Enhanced Infection Protection Control protocols were implemented, residents were quarantined, in their rooms or in the public areas for those who would not understand the restrictions.  We started testing daily.    All residents were tested.  Alongside that we reassured residents and staff and communicated with families.  Health Protection team were notified.

It is now Friday, all of the test results are back, all of the residents are negative, but we remain in a quarantine situation.  All staff results have been negative.  But we are clear the risk remains, but there were no PPE breaches, so we are hoping that the one positive result was an isolated case.  

All week I have heard of care home after care home suffering outbreaks.  The situation is bleak across the care home community.  

On Wednesday I received the call I had been waiting for - vaccines should be coming at the weekend for residents and staff.  I did not tell the staff, I knew they desperately wanted the news, but I could not risk them being disappointed.  I was right to be cautious, I was then phoned yesterday afternoon after spending all day trying to speak to someone who could confirm we would indeed be vaccinated, to be told that actually we would not be vaccinated this weekend, but hopefully at the end of next week.

In recent months we have been lead to believe by the Government that Care Homes would be the at the forefront of the vaccine program.

In the last month we have seen exponential growth in the virus spreading through the community and we are now constantly hearing of more and more cases in the Care Home community, infact I currently do not know of any local care home which does not have an outbreak.  

There seems to be no consistency in the roll out of the vaccines across care homes, some care homes received vaccinations in December, we are still waiting.

I applaud everyone who receives a vaccine in these terrible times, but was under the impression they would receive their vaccine after the Care Home community.   

As each day passes we are bombarded of images of individuals in the community receiving vaccinations, but the care home roll out of vaccinations has been inconsistent and communication has been too generic regarding timelines.   This situation is a ticking time bomb and yet again I fear that care homes will be let down.   Only last night Boris Johnson announced, proudly, that 40% of care homes have been vaccinated with 45% of over 80's.  I was surprised that this was not higher.

Earlier today I received a letter from our Council and NHS Trust requesting urgently placements for hospital discharges at hugely inflated rates (more than £300 per week than we currently charge a week).  It feels rather like March again, when covid positive discharges were made to care homes.  

This time we totally appreciate the immense pressure that the NHS are under and will do all we can to support the NHS, but it is clear we can not assist in anyway until we have clear direction on when vaccinations for all staff and residents will be in place as promised.    

Sadly I fear that some homes may not have the luxury of being able to turn down these placements, they have wages to pay, businesses to keep a float.    

I made a commitment to all staff, residents and their families I will do all I can to keep them safe.  This I will continue to do.    I do not know what the solution is to discharging people from hospital, but I do not believe that care homes should have pressure put on them to take unsafe discharges.

In the meantime, we will keep our residents safe, happy and loved.  A few days ago I was with a resident in her bedroom, I asked her if she was bored and struggling with being in her room "To be honest she replied, its rather nice to be not quite sooo busy, I'm perfectly content"

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Testing, Testing and more testing

 Our residents had a wonderful Christmas.  We would have loved the home to be full of visitors but sadly that was not to be.

On 22nd December I received a call to put all staff on standby for vaccinations to take place on either 23rd or 24th December.  Sadly these did not transpire, but with the news about the Oxford vaccine I am hopeful that our residents and staff will be first in line from next week.

However, we did get a Christmas message from the Department of Health to advise that Lateral Flow Tests should be performed on all staff twice a week in addition to the weekly PCR tests.  This email was received late on 23rd December.  

This is an enormous logistical challenge, but of course we support anything that can be done to minimise the risk of an outbreak coming into the home.  Testing is key to this,  however, the administration that is required alongside this in terms of recording results has not been thought out.  To explain I have made this video.  

Yesterday the Department of Health announced that for two weeks care homes do not have to log in all results - only positive results, but in less than two weeks we are expected to log in all Lateral Flow Tests, for all staff (twice a week) and all visitors.

This video explains the challenges we face...

Lateral Flow Tests ....

An issue which can not be ignored - Social Care Reform

  A few weeks ago I was asked to join a panel discussion on Times Radio about social care reform and why it was needed.     Over the last 15...