“I feel very lucky to work in such a nice home”. These words from care worker Karen Cockram beautifully reflect the positive spirit that those in the care sector are feeling during this challenging time. While Karen, as well as thousands of others are under immense pressure trying to protect the vulnerable in our society, they are still managing to cope and take the positives out of the current situation.
Yercombe Lodge in Stinchcombe, Gloucestershire, where Karen has worked for eight years of her 38 year career, is just one of the care homes dealing with the stresses of the pandemic. They provide long-term accommodation for elderly and disabled residents as well as short term respite care, and a day centre which provides visitors with activities and entertainment in a social environment.
Whilst the daily routine for the residents stays relatively unchanged, they have had to make a few adjustments. Care worker Karen Cockram explains: “We try to get our residents to sit apart at the meal table or if they do any activities, but they find it difficult not to interact with each other, as they want to give cuddles etc.
“The residents have coped very well with all the changes. To begin with, the ladies missed the hairdresser, but luckily one of our cleaning staff used to be a hairdresser so is now doing their hair.”
Despite the fact that they’re coping well, there are still some concerns from those in the home. Karen said: “Our residents are worried about what’s happening and how the virus is affecting our world. Many of them have stopped watching the news and listening to the radio. The home at the moment only have newspapers delivered to the residents once a week so as not to upset them.”
At Yercombe Lodge, practices have been put in place to minimise the risks of the virus spreading. Staff are required to wear masks while on shift, change into uniform when arriving and leaving work, and also have their temperatures taken on every shift. Gloves, aprons and hand sanitisers are among the equipment being supplied for workers.
Due to restrictions, residents have been unable to have visits from their loved ones inside the home, but some have been able to call by and have chats through the window. The home has also set up the facility for the residents to be able to video chat on the computer so they are able to see and speak to their families, however most opt to use the phone instead.
Karen explains how the residents are managing with not having regular visits from their families. “Our residents are obviously missing their families very much but most cope very well. Some of them have had very low days when their son or daughter have celebrated their birthday or a special occasion.”
Another challenge the home is facing is that no visits are allowed by doctors, dentists or chiropodists. Doctors appointments are instead being carried out over the phone or via video chat. One of the residents of the home recently had a fall and as a result was taken by the care home manager to get an x-ray in hospital.
Fortunately, so far the home has remained safe from the virus, but had a recent scare with one of their residents. Karen said: “We are very lucky at our home that we have managed to stay virus-free. We did have a little worry a few weeks ago when one of our residents was taken unwell. She was taken by ambulance to hospital where she stayed overnight. She was tested the following day and luckily was virus-free and able to return to us. Our home put her in isolation for 14 days as a precautionary measure, where we barrier-nursed her. On the day she was let out of isolation we held a party for all the residents!”
The day centre attached to the home has also been closed since the middle of March and isn’t expected to re-open until September at the earliest. This decision was made by the manager and trustees of the home, who agreed at the same time to stop all visitors and admissions for respite prior to the lockdown.
While the home is in regular contact with members who attend the centre, some are coping better than others with the closure. Karen said: “We have phoned the day centre members regularly. Most of them are ok as they have other family members. The members that live alone are really struggling with anxiety, loneliness and boredom. It’s very sad as some of them only get a visit from their carers once or twice a day.”
While the future is uncertain for residents and day-care visitors at Yercombe Lodge as well as thousands of similar homes across the country, dedicated care workers like Karen are ensuring that with a bit of help, our vulnerable in society are given the best chance of getting through this challenging period.