One year ago, on 11th March 2020, Renaissance Care, one of Scotland’s leading care home providers made the choice to shut its doors to visitors and go into self-imposed lockdown ahead of government enforced restrictions. It seemed cautious at the time, however looking back it was one that was vigilant and wise.
Throughout the past year care homes have been in the headlines every single day. Staff in care homes have been at the front line of the pandemic caring for the most vulnerable in our society, but despite the constant flow of numbers, stats and case studies on the sector, the experiences of those living and working in it, and the true impact on these people, cannot be quantified.
As indoor visits begin again, and roadmaps to ‘normality’ are laid out, Jozie Stables, general manager at Renaissance Care’s Glencairn Care Home in Edinburgh tries to give us glimpse into the true reality of what life has been like for care professionals.
Jozie (31) has been managing Glencairn Care Home, one of 15 Renaissance Care Homes throughout Scotland since 2019. She said: “No one will really know what it’s like unless they’ve been through it. And even as I speak from my own experience, I know that each and every other resident and member of staff have had their own personal challenges and moments of joy during this year that I cannot express on behalf of them.
“The main thing I think is important for people to remember after everything is that we are all human. It can be hard to keep that in mind when there are so many headlines focused on X amount of carers or nurses, as these titles become faceless and it is easy to forget that they are real people who, although are experienced professionals, are facing one of the most emotionally, mentally and physically draining events of their life.
“Indoor visits started on a restricted basis last week, almost a year after we initially stopped them. It has been a complete joy being able to reunite families after so long and it is something that we have been striving towards since the day we closed our doors.
“Having gone into lockdown before the government guidelines was difficult, as although it was absolutely the right thing to do for the safety and protection of our residents, it was hard for many of our residents to understand why, all of a sudden, they were no longer to see their loved ones.
“Talk of the pandemic is now a part of everyone’s daily life and throughout Renaissance Care residents and staff are constantly updated on new guidance and information, but at the start we had to strike a really fine balance of explaining to our residents what was happening without creating a sense of panic and upset.
“I think I can speak for my colleagues throughout the sector here when I say in March 2020, we were fearful. Fearful of the unknown: how do you explain something that we, never mind scientist and world-leaders, don’t understand?
“Before the pandemic we cherished our relationships with our resident who we often refer to as our ‘second family’, but the true meaning of these relationships were not known until we faced the virus together.
“The teamwork and the love which was shared amongst us all was profound. Staff were also isolating away from their own families to reduce the risk of infection, so we also came to rely on the connections and friendships we have with the residents and with each other. If I was to look for a silver-lining to this pandemic it would be this.
“Finally, there is a sense of relief as we can begin to reunite our residents with their families. For a year they have connected through Facetime facilitated by staff, so to physically see, touch and hug their children, husbands, wife, grandkids, or whoever it is that they have missed so much, is immensely exciting.
“As a sector, we have all experienced loss this year, and I believe we will feel the impact of this for some time. It’s human nature to look for a reason and closure on something so dreadful as what we’ve all been through, but unfortunately, until the virus is eradicated, we will have to continue to lean on each other and push forward looking to the future and the positives it holds.
“I would like to thank my colleagues throughout the sector, the residents we care for and the families who we have become so close to throughout this year. I am proud of the humility, the support, the love and moments of joy you have brought to one another during this long and difficult year. I know this will continue hereafter, and I believe it will get us through until we can welcome back normality.”