Coronavirus management within Southern Healthcare (part of the Devon Care Homes Collaborative)
There continues to be some very disturbing, conflicting and often confusing material in the news and media ongoingly. We understand the reasons why people are concerned about Covid-19.
People of any age can be seriously affected by Covid-19, we know there are identified vulnerable groups generally and especially the most vulnerable is people who are frail, elderly and living with health conditions, thus often living in 24/7 residential care.
- Coronavirus – It is true that Care Homes are not immune from Coronavirus, and despite stringent efforts and difficult steps to restrict the virus, such as: re doubling infection control processes, restricting casual visiting, monitoring / isolating staff, ‘barrier nursing’ of residents where appropriate, Homes are still experiencing the virus however, in relatively modest numbers.
- How well can Care Homes cope? – Care Homes are used to working under pressure and often with infectious conditions. Care Homes are extensively trained, regulated and used to coping with serious annual infectious outbreaks in society such as ‘flu of various types, Norovirus, colds, chest infections etc., affect us all.
- Is Covid different? – Yes. Covid is a virulent, highly contagious and serious virus that impacts the most vulnerable groups, and that is especially people who are frail, elderly and living with health conditions such those who will need 24/7 residential care because of these conditions.
- Anxiety – As Care Home Residents are amongst the most frail and vulnerable, everything around this generates heightened anxiety for those concerned. What we continue to do as always however, is to manage the impact of these conditions ongoingly and support everyone to the best of our ability, no matter what.
- Staffing – Staff numbers may be affected in some way, but generally not unmanageably. Some staff are having to self-isolate periodically because of symptoms of themselves or of family members. There are generally in manageable numbers. Generally Care Homes have to cope with sickness as does everyone else.
- How are staff responding – Staff are covering each other determinedly, and what is key is that the overwhelming attitude we are seeing in the sector is that the people working in it, strongly put others first, want to be there to deliver the best for their Residents and care about them deeply. This is our experience, it is what our staff want to do, and that has not changed despite all the anxiety.
- NHS – As part of the Devon Car Homes Collaborative, we wish to pay tribute to the intense work our colleagues are having to manage in the NHS. We would especially like to pay tribute to all the front line NHS staff who are showing the same selfless commitment, but under the most extreme pressure, especially those who are caring for the most seriously affected, often the most highly contagious patients ongoingly, yet are still going flat out, with some risk to themselves. This is incredibly humbling.
- Covid Reporting – It is unclear why community cases of Coronavirus are not being captured as frequently , but we do know Hospital figures are immediately available, and used as key indicators but wider community figures are not. Many argue systems must be put in place to record the impact of the virus in the community, including care homes. We understand this will soon be available.
- Care Home Visiting – As of 31st January 2022, the limitations placed on visiting were lifted. It is best to speak to the Manager of the Home to get up to date guidance.
- Impact of social distancing – To what extent this is impacting people case by case will be different, but it is of course causing anxiety to some family members, and this can impact the wellbeing of some Residents. However, Homes within the Collaborative are happy, engaging and loving Homes and can sustain a hugely positive impact on the health and wellbeing of everyone, not just people with dementia, and that is every single day, which is our main aim.
- Partnership working – Families, friends, as well as staff and residents, working together in a form of partnership spirit with each other, can still help to support Residents to thrive as well as support cognition, communication and engagement. That element hasn’t changed, in fact quite the reverse.
- Means of interaction – Homes have stepped up their activity, have been imaginative and used other devices such as portable phones, Facetime, Zoom, Skype, Facebook etc., which has been amazing. One recorded activity undertaken generated some 14,000 views! Life can and does go on, as far as possible, and Care Homes are very aware of how important this is.
- PPE – We are able to source all of the PPE we have needed.
- Do Not ‘Resuscitate / Hospitalise’ Directives – These are advance decisions, primarily led by Residents choice with family input where necessary, and subject to GP recommendation. There are fears in the news that people in residential care and / or living with dementia will be denied lifesaving hospital treatment if they get the virus and are pressured into signing these. This is not our experience, and we seek to ensure clinicians work individually and sensitively case by case with family involvement. This is what happens.
- Devon – Devon and the South West does seem to have a lower prevalence of Covid-19 than some other locations. Devon also has one the highest number of “Outstanding” Care Homes of any County. Similarly, all Devon hospitals are working within capacity. Let us hope this continues.
- Overall – We agree the pandemic has been very difficult and the system was already overstretched before this. Whilst there are questions to be asked about our preparedness as a system, the time to debate this will come. But overwhelmingly right now, the clinicians and healthcare workers in Health and Social care have been rising selflessly to this challenge and we are very fortunate in having that.
Combining safety and fun
One of the hardest and most important changes through the height of the pandemic, of course, has been limiting visits. So far families and loved ones have been extremely stoic and understanding of this predicament. We are using new ways to keep in touch – getting technology to work for us, emailing very regular updates and sending pictures of regular engagement that we know offer huge reassurance.
Means of contacting the Homes and Residents:
The Old Rectory Exeter
Our resident phone is an iPhone so people can Facetime and also video chat /video Whatsapp. 07747864152
Visit The Old Rectory Facebook page
Parkwood is taking Residents calls on a portable phone through the landline, and using skype/zoom on a tablet.
Visit the Parkwood House Facebook page
Sefton Hall has several phone numbers for the residents. These phones are in the different areas/floors of the home and the relevant number will be given to each relative on request. We will suggest suitable times to avoid peak times and is working really well.
There is also Skype and the Skype address has also been given to those relatives who wish to use it. The times are booked in with the Activity Co-ordinators.
Visit the Sefton Hall Facebook page
The resident’s phone has been set up with a process in liaison with all relatives, extended family and friends and its working very well. As the phone is carried by senior staff we would not want to change the process now so would not want to put the phone number on the website for all and sundry, however, if anyone wishes they can still enquire on the home line.
Visit The Seaton Facebook page
Covid Visiting guidance regularly changes, and more information can be seen on the gov.uk website under ‘Guidance on care home visiting’.
Please speak to the Home Manager should you need further information.