The past year has certainly presented challenges for everyone at Vida Healthcare, and the social care sector as a whole. Lockdown meant families couldn’t visit loved ones, staff were ‘locked into houses’ during outbreaks, and maintaining a sense of community became increasingly difficult.
It was also very challenging for staff and loved ones of residents to cope with multiple bereavements, particularly when it wasn’t possible to fully mourn the passing of those they had cared for.
Our dedicated staff continued to work on location during very difficult times, when a significant proportion of the general population had either been furloughed or had the option and ability to work from home.
There were, however, lots of positives to come out of the pandemic. Staff and residents were brought together more closely than ever before, and the level of camaraderie they developed was fantastic to witness.
We also saw staff innovating at a pace never seen before, to make sure we followed infection prevention controls (IPC) effectively.
The speed at which we implemented initiatives to reduce the risk of infection and enable family members to visit has been amazing. From the controlled admissions suite, which we established in under a month, and webinars to keep families up-to-date with their loved ones, to the visiting pods which allowed relatives to visit our residents as no-contact visiting was established.
The support from the public with the ‘clap for carers’ initiative was heartwarming and really raised morale at Vida, as it did for the social care sector as a whole, and of course the good wishes we’ve received from local organisations, and supportive family members have been lovely.
Thanks to our visiting pods, we were able to set up visits between relatives and residents as soon as lockdown restrictions allowed.
Working as a team has been crucial to making visiting as smooth, efficient and friendly as possible. Throughout, we have striven to be as sympathetic to the needs and concerns of all involved, as nobody has ever experienced restrictions like this before.
The feedback we’ve received from families has been crucial in helping us adjust our approach to provide the best possible visiting experience, whilst minimising the risk of infection, inside and outside homes.
The controlled admissions suite, which was established in August last year, originally to support the continued admission of new residents, has been used to facilitate indoor visiting. There have been some emotional scenes when staff have reconnected residents with their families.
There are a number of things care home operators like us should consider to make sure we can all open up for summer and continue the more relaxed visiting arrangements, which came into force on 17 May.
Keep abreast of national and local government guidance and understand how this will impact the care home from both a strategic and pragmatic perspective.
Decorators, entertainers and hairdressers can also return to care homes as lockdown restrictions ease. Giving homes a refresh and residents new activities will feel more like normal life, even as we continue to observe remaining COVID-19 regulations, including those around social distancing.
It’s important we bear in mind the risks associated with the changing of the seasons and the potential for another wave of infections during the colder months. This could have a significant impact on visiting and life within care homes. That said, the social care sector should be cautiously optimistic as restrictions begin to lift and life slowly returns to normal.