How care homes are keeping residents safe during the coronavirus pandemic

Understandably, many families will be worried about moving a loved one to a care home during the Coronavirus pandemic. Despite lots of concerning stories in the media, most care homes are still safe and happy places where residents lead positive and fulfilling lives.

Care Homes have always had to comply with high standards of infection prevention and control, regulated by various bodies including the Care Quality Commission, Public Health England and Local Authorities. Infection prevention and control are one of the key lines of enquiry that are inspected by CQC and impact on the rating of a care home and is a vital practice to keeping residents safe and well.

Recently there have been changes to the way that care homes work to adapt during the Coronavirus pandemic. We asked Amanda Cunningham, Southern region lead for hospitality teams at Country Court to talk us through how their Care Homes are protecting residents.

Tell us what your role is and what it involves

I am Hospitality Manager for the Southern Region; I work alongside my colleague Peter Widdowson who covers our care homes in the North of England. Together we are a source of advice and information for care staff, hospitality and housekeeping teams. We are tasked with ensuring that standards for hospitality, hygiene and cleanliness in care homes are being met uniformly across the Country Court group. We work with Front of House teams and Housekeepers and are a point of contact for the Hospitality Leads who are based in each home.

What changes have there been to staff training in care homes due to the pandemic?

We already had extensive training but have stepped this up even further. We have been training staff around handwashing, donning and doffing PPE, cleaning touchpoints every hour and wearing masks. Local Authorities are also providing PPE training in all homes, this has been a helpful extra reminder on top of what we provide. All staff are aware of the policies and procedures and have a dedicate COVID-19 information file in the home to refer to.

What extra equipment is there in care homes to keep people safe?

We have rolled out temperature reading stations at the entrance of every care home and increased the amount of hand sanitising stations throughout the homes. We now have PPE stations for use when residents are isolating, and we are looking to install contactless electronic hand sanitisers. We are currently rolling out safe visiting areas with new screens in all of our care homes.

What changes have there been for visitors to care homes?

On arrival, all visitors have their temperature read, sanitise their hands and fill out a health passport. They are given the appropriate PPE to wear and taken to the visitors’ area. All homes have a dedicated area for visitors this keeps contact to a minimum. After visitors have left the area it is given a full deep-clean. Each home has a ‘Covid Champion’ to ensure that all of these steps are adhered to.

How does your team respond to an outbreak of Coronavirus?

Many care homes have been Covid-free throughout the pandemic, but should there be an outbreak we start deep clean throughout the home as soon as the last person is free of the virus. We sanitise all areas including bedrooms with specialist equipment including an ozone machine which decontaminates the rooms. We already use antimicrobial and hospital grade sanitisers and focus on high contact surfaces such as handrails, lift buttons, dining areas and seating areas.

The air conditioning units have been turned off and windows are kept open to allow a flow of air through the homes. Bedrooms are cleaned and sanitised on a daily basis, again with a focus on high contact areas such as desks, chairs, remote controls, door handles and lighting controls.

Staff now have to wear PPE in the care homes, but what else has changed for them?

There’s a lot for staff to learn so we spend lots of time reinforcing the training they’ve been given. Small changes like ensuring staff don’t travel to work in their uniform are important. We’ve ensured staff are having now having their uniform laundered on-site, so not taking it home or wearing it on buses. We have special rules for laundry if there is an outbreak, so everything is bagged up in red bags and handled according to our procedures. Our Housekeepers have been given extra training as contact times for chemical cleaning products have changed, there is a lot for people to learn.

What has been the most challenging aspect of the pandemic for you?

Over the last few months, our processes have changed as we’ve learnt more about Covid-19 so it’s been challenging to make sure that all homes are up to date with the latest advice on PPE when they should and shouldn’t wear it and keeping people calm and confident. There’s lots for staff to learn, lots of changes and advice for staff to take on board, but we’re all working hard to keep on top of it.

What have we learnt from the first wave of covid-19?

I think we are well prepared; our teams are confident that they have the knowledge and equipment to keep people safe as best they can. If the staff see that I’m worried about catching Covid then they panic so it’s important to keep calm and confident.

For this second wave, attitudes are calmer as people feel more prepared. Our processes have now become a way of life, people clean touchpoints as a matter of course for example. Staff are used to wearing masks and we are continuing with deep-cleans. As a company we reacted to the Coronavirus situation straight away, when supplies were short, we responded very quickly to ensure that we have adequate stock of PPE so we never got short of PPE. No-one went without gloves or masks, we have to get quite creative and proactive to ensure all details are covered.

You can read more about how we are protecting our homes from COVID-19 here.

If you have any questions about how we are protecting our homes from COVID-19 please get in touch with your local Care Home Manager or contact us via our online form.

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