COVID-19 Success Stories | From The Home Manager’s Perspective

April 28, 2021 | Care Quality, Elderly and Dementia Care Sector

As cases of COVID-19 surged across the whole of the UK, there were a select few who remarkably kept their home covid-19 free!

This may be one of our most important, most inspiring and favourite blog posts we have ever done. Working with people such as Susan really is an eye-opener as to what many Care workers, Nurses and Care Home Manager’s go through to keep our most vulnerable safe.

We spoke to Susan Wilson, a Nursing Home Manager who kept her residents clear of the deadly virus during the pandemic. Susan offers a first-hand recollection of how this felt for her and many others working in care homes.

When talking to Susan it became really apparent how much of a hit the industry has taken as a result, but not only this, we see how she managed to keep the home completely covid-free, how she thinks the pandemic has changed the sector and also what her hopes are for the future when it comes to care homes.

Susan’s words speak for themselves…

Introducing us to the Home…

“The Home was a purpose built, single storey facility for those who are living with medium to advanced dementia. Built as a loop it enabled those who lived there to walk freely around in their reality. As there were three lounges around the loop, there would always be staff to oversee the safety of all the residents no matter where they were. Doors leading to the grounds were also alarmed to alert staff that someone had gone outside so that they weren’t alone. This was not to prevent anyone from going out, we had one gentleman who believed he was going to work every day so it didn’t matter what the weather was like, he still went to work. Staff ensured that he had appropriate clothing and shoes on and let him be free to do what was his reality, Or, if the sun was extremely hot, we obviously watched for the length of time, hydration and sun protection for anyone who chose to go out. The Home was a place for folks to come and be a part of out family, that included their family and friends. There was so much love there.”

Occupancy levels – how did you manage to run the home based on less occupancy/ no new residents and what were the challenges?

“As the pandemic grew and hospital beds were needed for those who were really sick, I rang round the hospitals, social workers and CCG to offer places for those who we could help, who had not been diagnosed with Covid-19. I think we had three admissions on that basis initially, then the Covid funding payment was introduced to encourage Care Homes to accept anyone and everyone no matter what their status was: well, I would not accept anyone who had a positive Covid test due to the layout of our Home. It would be too difficult to ensure isolation for a number of confused residents who didn’t understand the needs for isolation; however, we did accept anyone who had tested negative and were able to ensure that they were observed for signa and symptoms safely. So that increased the occupancy on that level, but we found that families were not so keen to search for a care placement for their loved ones and tried to manage in their own homes. I think a lot of this was due to the news stories of how Covid was spreading through nursing homes. So, with lower income we had to adjust our spending; all departments were advised not to be spending on unnecessary items from kitchen to maintenance. All departments within the Home had their budgets adjusted to meet the need of how many we were caring for and not how many bedrooms we had. It took a little while to get the staff to understand this but once they understood, it worked well. At one point it was necessary to work with fewer staff so we closed one of the lounges and based our care from the two remaining areas whilst still observing distancing.”

In your opinion how did you keep the home COVID – free? What helped you during this time both professionally and personally?   

“As reports of cases in England hit the headlines and realising how rapidly this virus was spreading, I made the decision to stop unnecessary visitors in the Home, and then reduced family visits. Soon after, this became mandatory anyway, but I do think that because we introduced it earlier I one of the reasons we managed to keep it out of the Home, that and the honestly of the staff. All staff temperatures were checked on arrival to the Home for their shift and questions for any symptomology. Those who presented as unwell or had been in contact with anyone who had tested positive were sent home for a period of self-isolation. Infection control measures were up-graded and all staff had training and education reminder on PPE and barrier nursing, should any resident become infected. I had risk assessments in place to cover staff that were in the high-risk category, so that should a resident become infected, that staff member would not be involved with their care. As the lockdown reduced, there were also risk assessments in place for visiting professionals and families who were visiting using the pod we had bult. What helped? – definitely the teamwork of the staff, but also having the right support, advice and a ‘go to’ person from the outer agencies.”

What is the main thing you think the care sector will take from the pandemic?

“I think that because all homes have endured this pandemic, we will all have learnt something form it; and I guess it will be different things for different environments and areas. The biggest thing is understanding the importance of infection control and how to prevent cross infection and this should cover all infections; my guess is that many Homes don’t go to extremes during the winter when the flu and Norovirus is about, maybe we could prevent some deaths from flu if we all thought about this.”

What are your hopes for the future in regards to care homes etc.

My hopes are that all Care Homes will be a safe haven for one of the most vulnerable group of people in our society because, at the moment, not all Homes are. To some owners, a Care Home is a money-making business specifically and the folks who are paying to be cared for, with respect and dignity are actuality denied this basic need, never mind anything else. I would like to see all Home managers in an area having a support group to chat about their own needs and worries; a manager’s post can be very isolating sometimes with nobody to chat to who understand exactly what it takes in the role. A time to exchange ideas and solution to issues that may arise.”

What a privilege it is to be able to receive such a detailed piece on the pandemic through a Nursing Home Manager’s eyes.

We would like to extend a very big thank you to those in the industry who, have fought tirelessly whilst working to keep everyone safe.

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