Sarah Clarke-Kuehn, Sanctuary Group Director – Care, reflects on a year of enriching residents’ lives across Sanctuary’s care homes through the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s just over a year since COVID-19 began to impact on the country and we faced the first national lockdown. There was a clear message from Government to stay at home. However, across our 100 care homes we had to continue supporting our elderly residents, protecting those most vulnerable in our society and our staff on the frontline each and every day.
Preparing for the impact of COVID-19 was essential so we could continue to deliver high-quality care and support to our residents. We had been monitoring the threat as it emerged globally in January and were acutely aware of the dangers that a pandemic would present.
We started to procure supplies of PPE, undertook risk assessments and put in place enhanced and robust infection control procedures that were continually revised as the pandemic progressed. We also took an early and difficult decision to end care home visits on 13 March before the lockdown was announced – but we continued at all times facilitating end of life visits. Care staff were also working at dedicated homes and not moving between locations, helping minimise the risk of transmission.
While we did everything to reduce the risk of infection in our homes, like all care providers, we were impacted, and I pay tribute to all the residents and staff who sadly lost their lives to COVID-19.
We’ve seen our staff go to incredible lengths to protect our residents during the pandemic, including leaving their homes and families to move in with residents and shield them from the virus, and volunteering split shifts to cover absences.
Staff welfare arrangements have been essential. We have paid staff who were self-isolating in full, because it’s the right thing to do, as well as providing mental health and wellbeing support, free meals, laundering services and access to a 24/7 employee assistance helpline.
Much has been spoken about the impact of visiting restrictions on residents during the pandemic and we have done everything to maintain safe visiting across our homes and ensure some form of social contact which is essential to residents’ wellbeing. Visiting pods, designated visiting rooms, garden visits, drive-throughs, the distribution of ipads to every home to facilitate facetime calls and communication through open windows have ensured the continued crucial interaction between residents and their loved ones in a safe environment.
We have also continued to invest in our homes, people and technology to provide the best possible care. Our unique structure as part of Sanctuary Group, a not-for-profit provider, has allowed us to draw on additional finances that many other providers may not have access to. Our ethos and values guide us in providing high quality care and enriching the lives of our residents, rather than returning a profit to shareholders.
Today, COVID-19 rates are lower than ever across care homes due to the rollout of vaccines, the vigilance and dedication of our teams, the continued cautious approach to visiting and, as a result our homes remain safe and vibrant enriching the lives of those who are most vulnerable in society. It has been a year we will never forget but I am so proud of how our staff have responded, working as a team to enrich lives on a daily basis.