‘We’ve been on an emotional rollercoaster’ – living with Covid two years on

 

12 March 2022

Louise Gillies, manager of Aberlour’s Speyside care home reflects on the second anniversary of lockdown.
 

It’s two years to the day since care homes across Scotland went into lockdown.
 
As Covid restrictions begin to ease for most of the population, the worry we all felt in that moment might seem like a distant memory. But it’s a fear we in the care sector still live with.

The virus remains very much a threat to our care homes. After two years of relentless hard work, there is no let up. Our focus today, as it was in 2020, is to do everything we can to keep people safe - our residents, staff and relatives.  
 
Our working day is still dominated by government guidance and the latest safety protocols. Nothing is left to chance. The regulations are followed to the letter.
 
Discussions are held each day on the importance of wearing masks correctly and social distancing, including during break times. A lot of emphasis is placed on the correct measures for donning and doffing equipment and ensuring that all staff are aware of the correct procedure. It’s vital work which helps to prevent the spread of infection.

Two years into the pandemic, the majority of staff are very familiar with the Covid guidance. However, I’ve been really encouraged to see how our teams get behind new staff and support them with their training and development needs.

There is a lot to remember and staff can sometimes be fearful of not getting it right – the fast changing guidance on PPE, infection control, visits etc. means it can be an unpredictable and emotional experience.

Most shifts begin with a staff briefing. Often there are heightened emotions as team members worry about the spread of the virus in the community and the fear they may have come into contact with someone with Covid. Needless to say, all staff are tested on a regular basis.

But, still, the worry of passing on Covid unknowingly to others remains. Understandably, staff do not want to feel responsible for spreading Covid to residents or their colleagues.

Staff who don’t feel well and have one or more of the Covid related symptoms are required to take a PCR test and can’t work while they wait for their results. Some worry about making ends meet during this waiting period, but we reassure them that they will be paid. Managers and senior staff are also on hand to offer any other practical support needed.

Staff illness has been a real challenge. Each day is different, and you can never assume that you will have your full team of staff available to work. However, Parklands staff are very accommodating and have risen to the challenges and demands placed on them by the pandemic.

Many staff have worked above and beyond their usual working hours to ensure residents are cared for, sometimes putting their Parklands family before their own. We all know how selfless carers have been throughout the pandemic, but we monitor staff rotas carefully to ensure that everyone receives enough time off to recuperate and rest.

Care homes can be very busy and after such a long period of lockdown, relatives understandably want to visit their loved ones. That has really helped to lift everyone’s spirits. But, with the virus still prevalent in the community, it means that extra precautionary measures must be put in place to keep our residents and staff safe.

Residents very much look forward to their visits from their family members; it can really make a difference to their day and although we arrange video and telephone calls to promote as much contact as possible, the ability to hold a loved one is so precious.

The response to Covid has been a true team effort, working together with other care homes in Moray, Public Health and the Care Inspectorate to share vital information from across the region. It’s good to know what other homes have been faced with, but it does make you worry. It’s also reassuring to know that other care home managers are facing the same issues as you are and that you are not alone.

Two years on from the onset of the pandemic, we remain as vigilant as ever, taking each day as it comes. As a manager, my priority is to offer continued support to our staff, residents and their relatives. Their safety is paramount. But I also recognise the importance of staying positive and creating a fun environment for everyone at Speyside.

We’ve been on an emotional rollercoaster during these past two years. We haven’t yet reached the end of our journey. But I know that I have the backing of my Parklands family and that my colleagues will continue to support each other. We are very fortunate to have such a strong, committed team to lean on.