Care home staff helping keep residents cheerful

ACACIA Lodge, a 55-bed care home in Quebec Road, Henley, provides 24-hour care and has 80 staff.

THE home has been in lockdown for five weeks but is still taking new clients who must comply with a  14-day isolation process.

Manager Thelma Clutson says: “Our care home has people who are elderly and frail and others with dementia who may not be able to look after themselves.

“I have a passion for looking after elderly people and those that need help. They can’t always look after themselves and I want to make a difference to their lives.

“None of the staff has been furloughed — they are all very much needed. We need to be able to cover all scenarios in order to provide the different services the clients might need. I do have some casual staff, who work as and when they are needed and when they are available to work, so not everybody is full-time.

“We have had three new clients since we went into lockdown.”

Despite the lockdown, residents continue to use the communal areas such as the lounge and garden and staff try to ensure social distancing measures are followed.

Mrs Clutson, who has worked at the home since 2011 and has been manager since 2015, says: “It is very unfortunate that we have had to stop relatives visiting.

“We are trying to help our clients stay in touch with their families through phone calls, social media and video chats, which helps to prevent them from feeling alone and isolated. I know it has been very difficult for them.

“We have to keep their mental well-being going and keep them stimulated. Some families have come to the window and they wave at their loved ones.

“Other residents have had letters sent to them from their grandchildren so they can stay in contact and they don’t feel abandoned and left alone. People with dementia don’t remember what is happening outside the home, so they won’t remember that they need to be isolated.”

Staff are monitored to ensure they are fit for work.

Mrs Clutson says: “When they come to work there should be no signs of symptoms of the virus and we are taking their temperatures because we want to ensure that our building is safe and secure from the outside. All our staff are encouraged to wash their hands as often as they can and we are making sure hand sanitiser gel is available. The community has been amazing. We have been offered free PPE. Stock has been hard to get hold of, but we have been able to do it so far. We have had some provided to us by the NHS and you just have to phone around and follow the links through the NHS supply chain. We have never been low on anything.

“The group as a whole is working really well together and we are in a position to be able to continue with this arrangement for many more months if necessary.

“I think the guidance that is coming out from the NHS and the Government has been very detailed and helpful. It is giving us exactly what we need. I find it strange, but would say I have adjusted to it.”

THE Henley Manor care home in Mill Lane, Henley, which opened in February, is part of the Hallmark Care Homes group. It provides residential, nursing and dementia care for up to 80 residents.

MANAGER Liz Clements says her staff are coping well despite the demands of the pandemic.

She says: “Our care team is treating the national outbreak with the utmost seriousness. All our employees are well-versed in infection control and we have comprehensive measures in place to protect residents and the care team. This includes following all the advice from the Government and Public Health England, having an adequate stock of PPE and taking proactive steps to implement social distancing and hygiene policies.

“We have a robust policy which is updated as national guidelines occur and all team members have received education and training on covid-19.”

There have been many examples of kind gestures from the community, including letters and rainbow cards from students at
Gillotts School and donations of flowers from Waitrose.

Dynamic Print Media in Slough sent colouring books and pencils to give the residents something to do during the day and the home also received 58 face visors from Shiplake College and Gillotts School.

There have been no confirmed or suspected cases of the virus at the home.

Mrs Clements says: “We have had tremendous feedback from residents and relatives with regards to our approach to covid-19 so far.

“Morale in the home is high and our employees have gone above and beyond to keep residents safe, happy and entertained. This includes spending one-to-one time with residents who are self-isolating and utilising technology, including our RelsApp, to help residents keep in contact with their loved ones.

“We will remain vigilant and committed in our efforts to mitigate the risks posed by covid-19.

“We have increased our team recognition fund, so our team members will have extra rewards and treats as a thank-you for their hard work.

“To protect their health and well-being we have obtained enough PPE, provided ongoing covid-19 training and have launched a support fund for any team members who need to go into self-isolation and are struggling financially as a result.

“We have also increased our counselling services to support team members should they struggle emotionally during this unsettling time.

“In terms of team members’ health, we are checking our employees’ temperatures and doing a health check as they arrive at work to identify any possible early symptoms of infection.

“We are following guidelines on self-isolation and all our team members are fully aware of and comply with our uniform policy, which requires them to change at work.

“We have investigated the local testing resources and will arrange for the team as well as residents who display symptoms to be tested at the earliest possibility.”

THE Mount care home in School Hill, Wargrave, has 33 residents, cared for by 50 staff. It is part of the Majesticare group.

THE home is accepting new admissions as it does not want to put any additional strain on the NHS. Manager Rachel Stoneman says: “We have been locked down for more than six weeks.

“Nursing homes were quick to take the Government advice and we have been restricting access. We have extra PPE in the home and staff are temperature-checked twice a day and so are the residents.

“If anything, we have been pushing recruitment. We have been expecting the pandemic to peak, so we are trying to build up our staffing team.

“We have had staff that have isolated for various reasons. We have been lucky because I know a lot of other homes have had a lot of staff self-isolating. We are doing well at the moment.”

Miss Stoneman, 29, who has been at The Mount for three years and manager for eight months, says the home came close to running out of face masks but was supported by other homes in the area.

She says: “You can’t prepare yourself for what a pandemic will entail but looking at what was happening in Italy I think there was a big push for PPE.

“We got to a point where we were running really low on masks and got down to our last box. I emailed Wokingham Clinical Commissioning Group and said we really needed help and everywhere was out of stock.

“They emailed all the other care homes in the area and within five minutes I had four phone calls from different homes offering to lend us masks and then we got our delivery the next week. It shows the strong sense of community.”

Miss Stoneman says one of the hardest aspects of the lockdown for the residents has been the lack of interaction with their families.

The Majesticare head office provided an iPad for video calls and they have been kept occupied with activity books, crosswords and word searches as well as drawing and colouring. The home has organised a number of events, including an Easter egg hunt.

Miss Stoneman says: “You have to remind them that they are loved and that is why the biggest push for us has been the activity side of things. People with dementia can deteriorate in their general health so we have had a really big push on that.

“We have had to cancel all our entertainers coming into the home but we are very busy. The residents love bingo — some days we end up playing it three times. The staff team has been absolutely amazing — I can’t fault them.

“They are scared too and some of them are struggling with the idea of the pandemic but they still get up every day to come into work and then think of ways to make the residents happy.

“We are very positive and it has actually brought us all closer together. We have always been family driven and some of our staff have worked here for a very long time.”

ELIZABETH Court in Wargrave is “an independent living facility” with 39 tenants and one member of staff who lives on site.

JENNIFER HAYWARD is house manager at Elizabeth Court, where she has worked for almost three years.

She says: “I absolutely love my job and being here. I love all my tenants. We have a good laugh.

“It is a shame I don’t get to see as much of them now. We were doing things like chair Pilates, which the tenants were really enjoying, but we have had to put that on hold.

“I don’t go into the flats unless there has been an emergency, which there hasn’t been. I will stand at the door and shout to see if they are okay and they will stand a few feet away from me and that is how we communicate.”

There has been a positive spirit during the last few weeks since the lockdown.

Mrs Hayward says: “The next of kin and carers come and knock on the doors to drop food off and then the tenants come and get it. Most of the families call every day and others use Skype or FaceTime to communicate.

“Some of the tenants with mobiles have set up a Whats
App group to keep their spirits up. They send each other funny messages and to check to see if they are okay.

“I have been handing out boxes of tea bags and jammy dodgers to every flat to boost morale a little bit. Because we are quite a close community we have been looking after each other.”

She is confident the extra measures in place will keep tenants safe. The communal lounge, which is normally a popular meeting space, has been closed and the site cleaner has been working extra hours.

Mrs Hayward says: “It is different because it is much quieter than we are used to but I just get on with my job and make sure everyone is safe and well and everything is clean and tidy and sanitised. The cleaner is doing a marvellous job.

“We have had no problems with social distancing. We prepared ourselves well before it got to this state anyway. We stocked up on hand towels and took away fabric towels. All the communal areas have the hand towels, which are easily disposed of.

“We have a hand washing policy, which means as soon as you come on site you need to go to the communal toilets and wash your hands before going up to the flats.

“I have blocked off my office so anyone who wants to talk to me can ring the bell and we stand 6ft apart.”

Read article in Henley Standard

Keep up to date with our latest news & events

Location contact form