One year on from lockdown, Helen Walton, head of operations at specialist dementia care group, Church Farm Care, looks at how the care sector has evolved.
Over the past twelve months, the coronavirus pandemic has completely changed the way we live and work in the care industry. Homes across the country were closed to visitors for almost a full year, meaning workers have had to take on the role of both carer and family member – while simultaneously reacting to the constantly evolving nature of the pandemic.
As of 8 March 2021, every care home resident is now able to nominate a single visitor who can enter the home for regular visits, wearing appropriate PPE and following a negative lateral flow test. This first step in the government’s roadmap signals the beginning of a return to normality for those living and working in care homes across the country.
Helen said: “The past year has had a tremendous impact on every single person working in the care sector. Everyone is aware of the major changes that had to be implemented to keep everyone safe, but it has been much more than simply closing our doors to visitors and investing in more PPE. There have been many more adaptations to ways of working that people aren’t necessarily aware of when it comes to the way we’ve had to navigate the pandemic.
“Before COVID-19, certain members of the team would regularly move around to support our four homes. However, once the severity of the pandemic became apparent, this was something we immediately stopped, meaning that each home had its own team. Then even within that team, there are dedicated ‘households’ caring for different groups of residents to minimise the risk of transmitting the virus.”
Focusing on wellbeing
Helen added: “In times of pressure people pull together, and our team has gone above and beyond in that respect. However, it’s become clear just how important those daily connections with other people and hobbies are now that they’ve been taken away from us, which is why we’ve significantly increased our existing wellbeing support during the pandemic.
“There’s a saying that ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup,’ and in a role that can be incredibly emotionally demanding this has never been more apt. It became apparent early on that by losing those familiarities at home that normally fill employees up, we have to do more for our teams during the working day to support wellbeing and ensure they feel valued and can continue to deliver excellent care.”
Helen concluded: “Before the pandemic, we’d not really considered offering visitor appointments via Skype or Zoom but now it’s firmly entrenched in our day-to-day activity. It’s broadened people’s ideas about how they can connect and allowed family members who live all over the UK – and indeed the world – the opportunity to stay connected with their loved ones in a way they couldn’t before.
“From one-to-one calls through to group meetings, it’s been a real lifeline for the people who live with us and has left us asking ourselves why we didn’t think of this before. It’s undoubtedly something that will remain part of our processes forever as we navigate our way out of the pandemic.”