We all know that COVID-19 has had a huge impact on all our lives and we talk about the effects it has had within care homes; the people who live in homes and the staff who work in care homes. Although we can empathise with their experiences, only those who actually work within the home truly understand the full impact, both the devastation but also true comradery.
Here is a very real and honest account of COVID in a care home.
Renaissance care home
We as a care home made every effort we could to try and keep COVID away from our home and our beloved residents. We were all aware that we cared for one of the most vulnerable groups in the population and knew and understood how hard a challenge this was going to be. Residents were encouraged to socially distance; all home entertainers were stopped at the beginning of March 2020 and thereafter families were rarely allowed to visit in an effort to keep the virus away. A lot of residents did not understand why loved ones couldn’t visit. To them, everything that they knew and loved just suddenly stopped overnight; without little reason and without rationale.
As best we could, we would explain the current pandemic and how we were protecting them from the virus. Although we were fearful, we didn’t want to pass this fear on. Many residents already became distressed and agitated with the changes, it was our job instil calm, reassurance and support. We became more than carers, we became extended family.
This did, however, put even more pressure and reliance on staff and we often felt an overwhelming need to protect. During this time, staff attended work, went home and did little mixing with their own families. On days off or weekends, we tried to reduce the contact we had with others to help minimise the risk of taking anything into our care home.
Covid entered in November 2020
Sadly in November 2020, COVID entered our home despite our best efforts. We do not know how it arrived, but it was devastating for all. The fear for our residents, their families and staff was huge and very worrying.
Our Manager held daily flash meetings to keep us all updated with what was going on, to ensure we had plenty PPE equipment and to try and prepare us for what lay ahead. Despite these preparations, the reality was much worse than any of us had expected. We had all been doing Facetime and phone calls to keep residents and worried families together. We put photos on our Facebook page to make sure family could see their loved ones were well and being cared for which was greatly appreciated by all.
Our care home had 45 residents and 60 staff prior to the outbreak. Out of that group, over half our residents and staff caught COVID-19. As the impact of COVID took its grip, residents became increasingly ill and more and more staff were required to isolate at home. This meant that the staff still at the care home worked extra shifts to make sure we could still deliver the very best care. We also tried hard to provide support to each other during the most difficult of times That is when a team effort is truly noticed and you understand that you are all part of a genuine caring profession.
In honesty, the days became increasingly difficult. Tiredness and fatigue set in and we became increasingly concerned about the health of many of our residents.
At this point, staff started to share their real feelings and fears about what lay ahead.
It became a very emotional time within the home. We experienced death and sadness like never before, this still affects us daily. One of the hardest parts for us was when relatives visited when their loved one was near the end of life. We would have to explain that they needed to wear PPE, keep their distance where possible, everything just seemed more clinical rather than the intimate, personal way that we were used to. It went against every natural instinct we had. At a time when all we wanted to do was provide a simple hug when they needed a comforting, it was truly heart-breaking. It was even more difficult for families that could not make it in to be with their loved ones during their final hours. This meant staff would sit with residents until the end and supported facetime calls to families to say their goodbyes.
When we lost residents in normal times, we would have been given closure by attending the funeral of our residents. However, COVID meant that instead, you would walk through a corridor where rooms were now vacant, doors were covered in COVID signs, and staff would pass with eyes full of tears and unable to talk. This was so hard on us all.
No one could have imagined the tears and pain that everyone suffered when COVID arrived. In remembrance of those we loved and lost we lit candles and held a service. This was really appreciated and provided us all with time to talk, cry and share many happy memories of the residents we had lost.
We still feel the impact that COVID had on our home and I think we will for some time to come. This was the hardest experience to witness within care, however, we also look at it with great pride of how we were able to support each other, pull together and still deliver the best care we possibly could under such difficult circumstances.
These were not normal times. As Captain Tom said: “Tomorrow will be a good day”. With staff like we have, I think he is right.