Opinion: Where are we now?

By Carey Bloomer

March 2020 seems like a lifetime ago and how things have changed.

The staff have become family to most of the residents, learnt how to use new IT techniques to connect to families, been advocates for the residents, and most importantly supported each other through these extraordinary times. What the new normal will look like remains to be seen. There will be times when we try to re-establish life as it was but I am not sure that it will ever be possible and certainly not this year.  

It does feel as though we are almost starting to re-introduce the home into the community. Links with the schools need to be re-established and a new way of integration with them can be made. 

Outreach work into schools is of paramount importance – these children are our future social care workers, whether as a nurse, doctor or the carer pathway, and we need to encourage and champion the social care sector. We as a business are starting to be invited into the secondary schools to help with careers advice, we are doing a whole day of mock interviews. This is an important part of our service and vital for the future of the workforce.

This week the government have done it again, releasing a statement for the care sector without consultation or telling the sector first.

The promise from the Prime Minister about putting social care front and foremost was not apparent in the Queen’s speech, much to the dismay of the sector. Even after a year they still treat us as the Cinderella service.  As a home we welcome the announcement and feel that it is about time, we just would have liked to be involved. I do feel decisions are being made by people who have never set foot inside a care setting and have limited understanding how this impact on the service.

Even more frustrating is the partial announcement to the press. The guidance is now stating five nominated visitors. However, only two people can visit at a time, and that crucial part is missed out by the press. It is then left to the homes to explain it all to the relatives who are desperate for the wider family members to visit. 

Staffing levels and the uptake of the vaccines are both good. We have achieved a 98% success rate for staff agreeing to have the vaccine, against the national average of about 60%, so this is protecting our residents well.

Residents’ activities from external entertainers ground to a complete halt 14 months ago. Hopefully if any are still in business we can start again soon. The residents are kept busy by the staff, although it will be great to have some new faces back in. Be reassured that we will continue carrying on the infection control measures and ensuring that they are vaccinated and have negative tests before entry.

In June we will be asking our volunteers to return, as they are a great resource for the home. We need gardeners who can spend just a couple of hours a week with the residents, people to help with creative crafts, readers to read to bed-bound residents . . . some residents have no relatives to visit them.