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Tests, tears and triumphs

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Care and support, Communities, coronavirus, Guidance
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Unexpected opportunity

If someone had told me 17 days ago that our care home would be filled with the voices, laughter and tears of relatives I wouldn’t have believed them, but this is exactly what happened.

16 days ago, I received an email from Cornwall Council. They were looking for care homes to take part in a pilot for rapid COVID-19 testing for visitors. As of today, we have tested and reunited 18 families in our care home.

Let’s rewind to ‘Day Zero’.

I could have missed the email as we receive huge volumes each day. Luckily I didn’t and replied straight away. Within hours we were invited to live webinars, links to training and given contacts for support.

The time frame for roll out the following week seemed pretty ambitious and, even though the next few days felt like a whirlwind, it was actually a very well thought out and carefully planned mission, with the infrastructure fully in place to support our participation.

We had COVID-19 tests and other materials delivered within two days of our first webinar and this is when I started to feel very excited. This would mean so much to our residents and to the families and loved ones visiting them.

We had constant telephone support from the Department of Health and Social Care throughout the whole process. We had been given detailed advice about the testing area and what we needed to do to make sure safety and tight infection control measures were maintained. I enlisted the help of one of my staff to call relatives and give them the wonderful news.

Care home colleague ready to test visitors in a dedicated, covid-secure area.
Care home colleagues are ready to test visitors in a dedicated, covid-secure area.

Emotional moments

Tears were shed over the phone. The relief in their voices was obvious when they realised this visitor testing programme could mean being reunited with loved ones in a more meaningful way. We decided to have a practice day, so we didn’t look like bumbling idiots!

It went well, as the process is very simple to follow. We were ready for the next day – a day filled with excitement and anticipation. Our first visitor arrived and the test went smoothly, with no hiccups.

After 30 agonising and nervous minutes the result came back negative. Donned in full personal protective equipment (PPE) we took the visitor to their relative’s private room. The joy in their faces was beautiful to witness. I’m not ashamed to say I shed tears myself. The visitor and their relative remained together for hours, catching up and holding hands. Now, I thought, our home is complete once again.

Preparing for testing visitors, residents and staff – the essentials

  • Designated entrance for those to be tested
  • Designated storage areas for testing equipment and PPE
  • Results waiting area
  • Space inside or outside the home for donning and doffing PPE

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  1. Comment by Lisa Elliott posted on

    Thank you for sharing, the agonising wait for results is interesting, our care home staff have gone through this every week, we shouldn't underestimate the anxiety of the wait!

  2. Comment by J H Green posted on

    This is good news. It is a predictable shame that the need for a supernumerary member of staff to meet, test and guide each visitor will add more expense and admin to these fragile and besieged businesses. This may be too much for some care homes