The last six months have undoubtedly been isolating and distressing for care homes across the UK.
Despite the difficulty of navigating the coronavirus crisis, management and staff have stepped up to keep residents (and themselves) safe, entertained and connected with those they love.
Although there have been dark days, there have also been moments of positivity that have helped homes to get through. From socially distanced exercise classes, to baking via Zoom and even a 70s themed dress up party, these little acts of care and kindness have cultivated a sense of connection in homes.
Here are six positive stories from care providers which raised a smile with us during these unprecedented times…
Your heart-lifting care home stories
1. Socially-distanced fitness and a 102 year birthday
Alison Cutbill, Intercare
“We have 27 residents in our care home, and are happy to say we’ve been COVID-free since the 17th March.
We shut our doors two weeks before the government said we should, to ensure our staff and residents were safe. We limited our agency staff used (incl. GPs) to only in emergencies, and if any residents showed signs of COVID, they were quarantined for 14 days.
We kept residents entertained with fitness classes run at a safe distance by an activity coordinator, who stood on the other side of glass conservatory doors!
We also had an outdoor BBQ, and a party for a resident who turned 102, taking photos of the festivities for families to send via email or post. Our council also very kindly donated tablets so everyone could keep in touch with their families on the outside.
We feel comfortable with any challenges we may see in the months ahead, as we’ve managed to battle through the first wave so well. We’re super proud of our staff and how they were able to react so quickly to keeping our residents safe and well.”
2. Zoom baking, potting plants and music classes
Rachel Smith, White Horse Care Trust
“The people we support normally have a busy timetable full of exciting activities, so it was a massive blow to everyone when COVID-19 struck and suddenly our days seemed quite empty.
So, we tried using Zoom for our house activities instead - with everything from potting plants to baking, playing musical instruments and arts and crafts included.
Once we’d had a few trial runs and realised this actually worked, Zoom activities were made available to everyone.
We (staff and the people we support) were all able to see friends we hadn’t been in touch with since before lockdown, and we were able to forget what was going on in the ‘real world’ and spend time laughing and sharing stories with each other.
I am so grateful that we have access to this technology, as it has made 'the new norm' a little more bearable and a little less isolating.
Without Zoom we all would have fully lost contact with friends and the outside world. Although it hasn’t replaced the experience of attending clubs in person, it was certainly the next best thing!”
3. Avoiding COVID and advice for managers
Kizzy Ankers, Akari Care, Shropshire
“We’ve been fortunate to be COVID-free throughout the pandemic, which I think was due to implementing safety measures as quickly as possible, and the dedication of our team.
First, we went into lockdown a week before the local authority told us to, and we’ve had a constant supply of PPE and masks. We’ve only worked with the same two agency workers, and I made sure all staff avoided travel in their uniform and changed on-site.
We’ve also remained strict about who comes in and out of the home, and staff have always gone above and beyond to control the spread of infection - for example staggering breaks so they aren’t in close proximity to each other.
I haven’t taken any leave yet - our staff and residents’ safety are my number one priorities. We’ve already started planning for the possibility of a second wave.
One piece of advice I have for other home managers: don't beat yourself up about this. We're all in it together and we're all learning at the same time. The situation’s not your fault, and there is support available.”
4. Full recoveries and embracing tech
Lindsey Quegan, Aaron Court Care Home (Hill Care)
“I recognised the importance of taking control of our situation early on, and treated COVID-19 as an opportunity for learning - which has empowered my team to manage a difficult situation effectively. My clinical background helped here, and meant we didn’t rely on waiting for government advice.
We set up an acute isolation pod to treat our COVID cases, and I’m happy to say all who had symptoms and confirmed cases made a full recovery. This is down to putting in strict and regular checks of all residents for early symptoms.
Because of this, I was able to downgrade and remove the isolation unit six weeks ago, and we’ve been COVID-free for seven weeks now.
We started visitation from relatives again in July, using the garden or conservatory for 30-minute slots, with a 30-minute deep clean afterwards. We’ve also embraced technology throughout lockdown, which has provided much-needed contact and stimulus for residents.
Right now, we as home managers should be focussing on the positives rather than appointing too much blame. This is a time to learn from any mistakes, share good practice and ideas, and prepare for 'what ifs' in the future - we’re likely to be living with coronavirus for at least the next two years.”
5. VE day songs and a 70s-themed party
Debra Banks, The Beeches Care Home, Coppull
“Our staff team became the entertainment team at the Beeches during lockdown, and we’re not finished yet.
We sang songs on VE day, made videos with residents and have done all kinds of activities.
We have a 70's themed party coming up where all the staff and some residents are dressing up and getting on stage - my admin team and I are going as ABBA!”
6. Cream tea for residents and staff
Tracey Ryan, Broomfield Care (Domiciliary care)
“One of our care users very kindly donated a cream tea to all our staff during lockdown.
We then decided to spread the love a little further and treated our residents who needed cheering up to a cream tea too! You can watch the video on YouTube here.”
A massive thank you to all of the care homes and care providers who shared their heartwarming stories with us.
Do you have a positive story you wish to share? If so, we’d love to hear it! Please email your story through to [email protected].
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