Coronavirus, Dementia Care and people living with dementia in our care homes
There has been some very disturbing material in the news and various media outlets recently and we understand the reasons why some in the media have suggested that the elderly and people like Alzheimer’s sufferers in the UK have been left vulnerable. Our views on this are somewhat more balanced and we would like to set out our own thoughts as to how we see things.
- Coronavirus – It is true that Care Homes are not immune from Coronavirus, and we are having to deal with this under intense pressure. That said, we are quite used to trying to cope with other serious outbreaks in society – ‘flu of various types, things like Norovirus, colds and chest infections, as we all do, and which can affect us all.
- Impact – It is also true that our Residents are amongst the frailest and vulnerable, and everything around this generates heightened anxiety for everyone concerned. What we aim to do however is to minimise the impact of these ongoingly and support everyone to the best of our ability, no matter what.
- Care – We are all coping with a new invisible virus that is highly virulent, infectious and very serious. Care homes are not immune from this and are reporting cases of the virus. However, we are supporting people with symptoms, the manifestation of which can often be quite subtle with people who are already frail.
- Staffing – Staff numbers are affected, but not unmanageable. Some people with certain conditions are isolated for 12 weeks, and some people are having to self-isolate periodically because of symptoms or themselves or of family members. Staff are covering each other and what is key, however, is that the overwhelming attitude in this sector is that people working in it, put others first, and want to be there for the people we care about. This is our experience, despite all the anxiety.
- NHS – What we do is not as intense as our colleagues are managing in the NHS. We would also like to pay tribute to 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, most highly contagious people continuously, and are still going flat out at very high risk to themselves. This is incredibly humbling.
- Covid Reporting – We are not clear why community cases of Coronavirus are not being captured, and are told it is because Hospital figures are key indicators, and immediately available. They say systems must be put in place to record and measure the impact of the virus in care homes and the community, including the death figures. We agree, and understand this will soon be available.
- Visiting – The restrictions of social distancing includes social visiting to relatives in care homes to try and restrict the virus, except in exceptional cases. How well this is working case by case we cannot say, but it is of course causing distress to some family members and to some this can impact wellbeing. However, this is much less so if the setting is happy, engaging and loving which when present, has such as a hugely positive impact on the health and wellbeing of everyone, not just people with dementia, and that is every single day. That’s 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 people to thrive as well as maintain cognition, communication and engagement skills. That element hasn’t changed, quite the reverse and we have had to step up, be imaginative and use other outlets such as phones, facetime, Skype, Facebook etc., which has been amazing. One activity we undertook had some 14,000 views. We have had lots of these conversations, Skype / Facebook / WhatsApp chats etc., but little difficulty.
- PPE – So far, we have managed to source the PPE we have needed. It is very difficult to get. However, certain key elements of the PPE we now have are re-useable. We believe the consumables are being re stocked by manufacturers as production ramps up.
- Covid tests – these are not generally available yet and that is generally unhelpful. However, we are all becoming increasingly aware of even the more subtle signs of the virus and have to act where appropriate as if people had the virus. When we have reported concerns, Public Health England have quickly arranged testing of the people with whom we have concerns. We are aware that new testing centres are now operating in Plymouth and a new centre in Exeter is soon becoming available, as is a Nightingale Hospital to be set up, somewhere in Exeter.
- Do Not ‘Resuscitate / Hospitalise’ status. 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 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 . A decision to hospitalise is a very serious one, and the likelihood of success is carefully analysed. Sometimes it is not the best option. Few people want to be hospitalised generally unless there a very good reason, and hospitalisation itself can be quite a traumatic experience. Many people prefer to stay at home where they can be cared for in familiar surrounding with the people they know well. There are many instances of people recovering from viral infections in Homes with GP support and we have confidence and trust in the variety of GP’s who care for our Residents.
- Devon – Devon and the South West does seem to have a lower prevalence of Covid than 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 current situation is very difficult and the system was already overstretched before this. As a Provider, we took formal action with three others on funding and decision making 9 years ago. There are still serious questions to be asked about our preparedness as a system, and our Societys’ attitude to Healthcare and elderly care generally. The time to debate this will come. But overwhelmingly right now, the clinicians and healthcare practitioners in Health and Social care are rising selflessly to the challenge and we are very fortunate in having that.
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 though the landline, and using skype 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 it’s 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 and I can email more details to them if needed.
Visit The Seaton Facebook page
MD Southern Healthcare
9th April 2020