I feel that the staff team, managers, the superior, seniors, carers, cooks, cleaners and the handyman have done an excellent job of keeping the residents safe and the home clear of the virus.
Due to their age and health, the sisters are shielding and have managed to keep strong and well.
Initially, everyone was afraid, government and media information coming through was not coherent or well understood and it changed course daily causing unrest, fear and panic.
The Deputy Manager had assembled the COVID-19 Emergency procedure and business and continuity plan. Within this, she created lists of staff who could stay at the home and continue to care for the residents if there was a total lockdown. Also, understanding that some staff had responsibilities in their own homes and some health care conditions that put them at risk, the plan gave firm directions for keeping safe.
The local authority and quality assurance were always at hand for additional support, update and advice.
We have had two residents with the virus and successfully isolated them, Cohaught nursed them back into good health, although one resident was put into isolation as a precaution but died of natural causes COVID-free. The virus here was the hospital/community borne. We had six staff with COVID symptoms, one shielding due to long term illness, one staff member tested positive at a later stage but had been exposed. All those co-workers self-isolated and returned to work afterwards.
Residents and relatives suffered alike as they initially missed their family communication. Many families thought that residents were isolated and locked in their bedrooms not allowing them to socialise. In fact, residents were isolated in their rooms initially, not able to mix in the lounges or eat together in the dining room. At this time, we had one Activity Coordinator who, with PPE, went to each resident’s room to offer individual activity support.
Initially, it was difficult trying to manage families and friends. They did not understand what lockdown was, and some feared that we had locked everyone in their rooms and totally isolated them giving them no human contact. This was far from the truth as there was active support from our activity coordinator and care from the staff.
We took advantage of the isolation period and got the lounge, library and dining room cleaned and decorated which was well overdue! Then, gradually, we started to bring individuals down in small numbers so we could maintain good personal distancing. The weather improved, and we began to take walks outside.
In April it was difficult to celebrate individuals’ birthdays, so we had a gathering and celebrated all April birthdays in the lounge.
The atmosphere began to lighten but it was still difficult for some families, who did not always understand the controls we had put in place particularly with food presents and paintings. We had to be clear to all families and put up notices with explicit instructions about bringing in food etc. ‘Do Not Enter’ notices were placed on the front doors, and Reception at this time had a very difficult job.
The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea obtained three iPad‘s for us to use to communicate with relatives through Skype and Facetime. They were wonderful though it took a while for us and the residents to get used to. However, it very much supported residents who have dementia as not all of them could express that they missed their families. This contact is now an everyday event.
There was great celebration and relief when Helen, our hairdresser of 15 years, returned!
We are aware we are due a second spike, but we are slowly reintroducing some normality but also responding to some new ways of doing things. These are based on our observations of some of the residents’ responses during the lockdown. For example, some residents respond better eating with either a small amount of assistance or on their own, while others enjoy eating with a friend in the conservatory. Some are now asking when can we eat in the dining room again, so we will listen and take action.
We are trying to plan family visits but in these central London houses, it is a difficult scenario and possibly a little early. We have no real outside space and no access to our garden without going through the home. I feel we need to work out one thing at a time, so the residents, sisters and staff teams can remain safe.
As a final comment – as this place in time is not over, using Anita’s words it is clear: “We are a strong team together and can support with compassion and love, to learn and to grow stronger and more motivated than ever together. I would like to give my heartfelt thanks to all who have contributed to the care and safety of St Teresa’s home.”