March 12, 2020 is a day that will forever be etched on the minds of everyone in the care sector - the day all but the most essential visits to care homes were suspended.
In almost 30 years working in care, I have never experienced a day like it. I hope never to endure a moment like it again.
We had all heard of the coronavirus, of course. News reports showed it edging closer and closer to home. What was once a mysterious virus on the other side of the world was now in our communities, and a clear and present threat to all of us.
When the call came to close our doors, it was not unexpected. But it was nonetheless a shock to the system.
We are well used to dealing with infectious disease in the health and care sector. Infection control is an important part of our routine work and ongoing training. But the threat posed by Covid-19 was on an entirely different scale. We were suddenly dealing with a global pandemic on our doorstep.
Of course, our staff took it all in their stride. Their first concern, as always, was the safety and welfare of their residents. But, it was a time of fear and confusion. How would residents cope being shut off from friends and loved ones, and how would relatives react? How would staff, worried about their own families, deal with the extra pressures lockdown would inevitably bring? Would we have enough supplies of vital PPE to keep residents and staff safe? These were the dilemmas we were suddenly confronted with. At times, the strain was overwhelming, the pace relentless.
One year on, sometimes it feels like we are no further forward, still grappling with many of those same challenges. Access to our care homes is still tightly controlled. For residents, a walk in the garden is their only glimpse of the outside world. Our staff are physically and mentally exhausted, but still as committed as ever.
However, as I write, the majority of our residents and staff have now received their second vaccine.
Nationally, Covid cases appear to be in decline. The restrictions we face are gradually easing. Many residents are looking forward to Mother's Day visits this weekend, their first family visit since Christmas.
There is a sense that life is slowly beginning to return to normal.
Things are getting better.
For many of us, today will be a day for reflection, remembering those we have lost during the pandemic. They are in our thoughts every day.
On days like this, it is important to take stock. As harrowing as the past year has been for our residents, their relatives and our staff, we have a lot to be thankful for.
Thankful for the technology that allows us to stay connected. The ability to arrange video calls between residents and their loved ones, and broadcast events and celebrations online – from virtual bingo to music festivals and link ups with local schools – has been the saving grace of this pandemic.
Thankful for my team of care professionals, a remarkable group of selfless men and women who have been to hell and back, but who never lost their passion for care or their sense of humour through it all.
Thankful for a community that rallied behind us and our residents. From local schools, supermarkets, distilleries, football clubs and many more, the support has been extraordinary. Those acts of kindness have meant the world to us.
Our care homes have always part of the fabric of their local community. We can’t wait to open our doors once again to the outside world, to hear the sounds of children playing and laughing with residents, to welcome families back into our homes, to take residents on daytrips into the community – simple things we took for granted just a year ago.
Those brighter days are coming. In the meantime, stay safe and cherish those close to you.
Ron Taylor, Managing Director, Parklands Care Homes