Professor Martin Green OBE, Expert Advisory Council member for P&G Professional and the Chief Executive of Care England, discusses the importance of looking at the mental health of care staff during the pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought into sharp focus the tremendous professionalism of the social care workforce. However, what it has also done is expose the fact that social care staff are dealing with complex physical and emotional issues. The people who are supported by social care have many comorbidities, often been very disadvantaged throughout their lives, meaning they have not only physical but psychological needs. From a staff perspective, this places the workforce under huge amounts of pressure, and the emotional cost of caring is not properly recognised within our current social care system.
During this year’s health emergency, the care sector has faced unprecedented new challenges, with social care staff navigating the complexities of supporting people at the end of their lives with their families, while also maintaining a safe distance. Many relatives have not been able to be with their loved ones when they have died, so the care staff have had to provide that emotional support to the person who is in their care, whilst also being a great support to their families and loved ones. Within our sector, there is very little recognition of this emotional strain and staff are seemingly expected to carry on despite the fact they are dealing with ‘professional bereavements’.
The lack of support was brought home to me when I was recently watching EastEnders. At the end of the programme there was an announcement that if viewers had been emotionally affected by the storyline, they should contact a range of different support organisations. I reminded myself that for many of our colleagues in social care, they will have been involved in the end of the life of somebody they have known and cared for many months, perhaps years, and nobody was offering them any support for the trauma of what they would have been through on their daily shift.
COVID-19 has also brought into sharp focus the concerns that many staff have about the virus. This is yet another anxiety to add to their many pressures. It is important that business owners and managers understand they must do everything they can to mitigate the anxieties that staff will have. One method to achieve this is with a comprehensive, clear and very visible cleaning regime and rota. Hygiene is absolutely central to good quality care and infection control in the current climate.
Instilling confidence in staff to maintain hygiene levels is paramount as part of this process. I recommend equipping teams with recognised and trusted cleaning brands they are familiar with from their own use, with simple and clear instructions for use. P&G Professional brands such as Fairy Professional, Flash Professional and Ariel Professional answer this need.
This pandemic has brought to everyone’s attention the fact that care homes are where teams of people work effectively together. The domestic and ancillary staff have played a vital role in keeping services safe, and we must not neglect their contribution or indeed, their mental health and wellbeing needs. In the same way that we offer training and support to our care staff, we must also recognise that the cleaning staff have a vital role to play in reassuring staff that their work environment is safe -both will be paramount in the ongoing battle against the virus in the care sector.