I’ve been asked if I could write about the positive sides of our experience during lockdown due to COVID/19. Initially, I wondered what would I actually write, as mostly at St Teresa’s home we have tried to continue our job of carrying on for the residents, keeping them safe and getting through the situation following the regulations issued by the government.
Then I realised that looking back, there have been plus sides through the whole experience for us, the staff members and our residents. We maintained a positive spirit in the home and tried to keep our residents’ lives as close to normal as possible. It became customary to see the staff with their blue masks walking around and in time, we and the residents could actually “see” or imagine the smile of that staff member talking to us – we could hear that smile in the voice. So learning to hear the intonation was very helpful! There were many comic situations when the masks stopped residents from getting the right meaning of what had been said and this led to all kinds of hilarious interpretations and lots of laughs.
I could see that the staff put extra effort into keeping the residents happy, spent time in their rooms one-to-one, singing to them, putting on their favourite music, dancing, joking, and making them smile. That was a beautiful sight to see and definitely helped the residents to become less affected by the lockdown and the isolation the whole country had been through. It made me see my colleagues as heroes as they continued working, keeping calm, collected and spreading their happy thoughts and spirits with no complaint or relaxation in their giving attitude. The opposite – in fact, they upgraded it to the maximum.
We learnt many things and used the time constructively as a learning experience. At the beginning of the lockdown, the residents spent a month in their rooms and that helped us identify and recognise those who were happier to have meals in their rooms instead of in the dining room. Also, residents who were very responsive and excited by activity and one-to-one chats we integrated that knowledge into the structure of the day and will keep for the future.
Staff and residents also learnt again to value the little things. Things that we appreciate immensely now – going out on a sunny day, being able to spend time in the garden, chatting and playing a game or having tea in groups of more than two people. The end of April was the first time since the lockdown that we had a small party – celebrating the birthdays of the residents born in that month. It was a long-awaited celebration and one of the happiest I’ve seen our residents – bustling with life, joy and appreciation. Lots of music and dances too!
And the positive experience continued – we incorporated new technologies to help our residents connect with their families. Kensington and Chelsea’s local authority donated to us three new IPads equipped with Skype and Facetime and the residents were able to video call their families regularly. So this was very helpful – especially to some of our residents with dementia missing their relatives and not able to express that vocally, and so touching to see them cheerful and uplifted at the end of each call!
We are grateful that people also thought of us – of our residents and the staff during that hard time. We received many phone calls from relatives, friends and neighbours sending their best wishes and warm thoughts and assuring us they are with us in time of need. Many beautiful cards were left regularly at the front door – some of the people we know, others from children and parents from the neighbourhood wishing to cheer us up. Flowers too – we were never left without gorgeous flowers in the house. On the tasty side, we had lovely presents of doughnuts and chocolates in great quantities from two local companies for residents and staff to share. Absolutely fabulous!! Plus some lovely lavender sanitisers to keep us safe while smelling good!
All these experiences during the last four months were not easy but taught us one thing – together we are strong and with support, compassion and love we can go through the hardship, learn and continue forward stronger and more inspired.