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Life during lockdown: The inside story on working in a care home during the coronavirus crisis

The outbreak of Coronavirus COVID-19 has had a huge impact on staff working in care homes across the country. Media reports are worrying for families and people who may be thinking about a care home for their loved one. Our blog explains how working practices have changed during the lockdown to ensure residents are kept safe and how staff in different homes have dealt with the situation.

What has changed for care home staff during the lockdown?

All Care Homes follow the guidelines provided by Public Health England (PHE) around infection control and staff safety, to ensure the safety of both resident and staff. Our homes follow these rigorously as a matter of course but they become even more important during crisis such as this.  PHE has issued additional guidance on infection control and we have also provided support for each of our homes. This includes:

  • Guidance on good hand hygiene
  • Isolation procedures
  • The correct use of PPE (personal protective equipment)
  • Deep cleaning procedures
  • Provide personal care safely while operating under the new measures.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) regulates the government’s guidance and provide detailed support to keep people safe in care homes during the crisis.

Wearing PPE all day is certainly a big change, it can be uncomfortable at times,” said Gemma Grant, Deputy Manager “But we’ve become experts in ‘donning’ and ‘doffing’ correctly, we’ve done it literally hundreds of times now. We are very lucky to have a good supply of PPE, Country Court have ensured we’ve not experienced any problems on that front.”

In brief the rules the homes now follow are;

  • All staff in the home are required to wear masks, regardless of their role
  • All staff providing personal care will be required to wear gloves and apron, even for residents who are not showing any symptoms
  • All residents returning from hospital are to be isolated for 14 days
  • If a resident is presenting with symptoms, all residents who have come into contact with that resident need to be isolated for 14 days
  • All residents who are showing symptoms need to have their temperature taken twice a day

Over the past few weeks, all residents and staff in Country Court Care Homes have been tested for Covid-19, using the two forms of testing available -  a viral swab (to test for current infection) and antibody (to test for previous infection). Should someone test positive for Covid-19 all residents in that care home will be cared for in isolation with contact kept to a minimum. A full deep clean of the home is undertaken and full infection control procedures are followed.

New ways to keep in touch during the coronavirus pandemic

The hardest thing for residents has been not being able to see their loved ones, especially for those living with dementia. Care homes have set up a schedule for phone and video calls so families can speak to their loved one regularly at a time that is convenient to them. Each home has been provided with a tablet to enable as many people as possible to take advantage of the calls. Video calls have been a new experience for some residents and staff have spent lots of time supporting people to use unfamiliar technology.

Making every day different

Staff have had to be creative with the activities that they can offer to residents, care homes usually enjoy many visitors from their local communities to keep residents occupied. Having been blessed with warm, sunny weather through most of the lockdown, residents have been able to spend time outside in their gardens. Some have got involved with the annual Country Court in Bloom gardening competition whilst others have enjoyed chatting in the sunshine.

It’s been great to see relationships between staff and residents become closer during the lockdown. With no visitors allowed in the homes, staff have gone out of their way to spend more time with people and get to know them better” said Customer Relations Manager, Nina Rogers.

Staff have had to work more flexibly too, pulling together as one team to make sure the resident’s days are fulfilling. Front of house staff, carers and housekeepers have all shared their skills and resources for the benefit of residents. Housekeepers that previously had careers as hairdressers have dusted off their skills and ensured that residents are looking and feeling their best for example. In other homes care staff have come up with ideas for fun and engaging games with residents, everyone has pulled together to bridge the gap left by visitors to the homes.

One big family

Country Court is a family run company with strong values that have stood the homes in good stead throughout the crisis. “Staff morale is very high, people have really come together and looked out for each other. This terrible situation has made us very grateful to be working for such a supportive company.” Said Home Manager Allison Kennie, “I’ve worked in the care sector for many years and I’ve never come across a company as supportive as Country Court, we really are one big family”.

The Country Court family ethos has helped our staff to be resilient throughout this crisis, they continue to care for residents with dedication, empathy, and kindness every single day.

Area Manager Kyra Travis added “For some care homes this has been an intense and sometimes overwhelming time for staff. However, it has been heart-warming to see everyone pulling together, the staff teams have been amazing. We’ve seen staff volunteering to live-in at care homes, not going home to see their families for several weeks, putting the care of our residents before their own families. They’ve done lots of extra shifts and long hours to minimise the impact on residents.”

Staff are being encouraged to take care of their own wellbeing with information and support being shared through the company intranet. Country Court also provided over 2000 care packages to staff containing over 20 items of food and other provisions to help see them through food shortages at the beginning of the lockdown. However, it’s the support and understanding that staff have shown each other in their homes that has strengthened team bonds.

Working in a care home can be challenging but also highly rewarding, to find out more about working in a Country Court care home click here

If you're wondering what life has been like for our residents during lockdown read our resident interviews in our blog on life during lockdown here

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