Teaching Care Home Community: So good to see you again!

Dr Kate Sanders PhD, MSc, BSc (Hons), HV Cert, RN - Practice Development Facilitator

Kate Sanders, Practice Development Facilitator

It was a great pleasure to finally meet up again with members of the Teaching Care Homes (TCH) community this afternoon – albeit virtually. No doubt we could have talked for a long time about their experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic, but we only had an hour together. I believe that they would have had every right to share how tough the last few months had been, but what they chose to share instead, is a testament to how resourceful they are as individuals, leaders and teams. I offer you a window into our conversation which includes insights into what helps effective working; the resourceful and responsive ways in which they worked to respond to the situation and to care for residents and staff; their learning and ideas for moving forward.

Many of the homes experienced significant levels of staff sickness not only due COVID-19 itself, but also from the exacerbation of existing mental health issues, or anxiety about coming to work. In one large home, a member of staff began to make well-being phone calls to those staff who were off sick, which was found to be beneficial. As a consequence, the home reorganised her role to enable her to continue to do this. They also used staff who were shielding to read the frequent policy/guidance updates, asking them to translate it into actions that the staff could implement quickly. Another manager talked about how important she felt it was to have open and honest conversations with staff. At a time when guidance was changing rapidly, she adopted a ‘you know what I know’ approach, to reassure staff but also to help them to be ready for potential change to come. In response to the concerns about staff from black and Asian minority groups, another home has taken the opportunity to formalise their risk assessment policy, to ensure that all staff are working in areas that does not put their health at undue risk.

There have been some challenging times and actions to take to prevent infections spreading, but also some positive learning about infection control for several of the homes. One home implemented the Bush Guidance, creating red, amber and green zones. This meant difficult decisions had to be made about moving people who are living with a dementia out of their familiar surroundings, which felt horrible but was necessary to reduce the spread of the virus. This was hard for both residents and staff and they are all having to work hard to recover from this upheaval. But on a positive note, there has been new learning about infection control within the homes. One participant discussed how they have been reviewing their key clinical indicator reports for infections and have noted how significantly infections within the home have reduced post-COVID as compared with this time last year. They are now considering the actions that they need to continue to take to ensure that this is maintained, whilst not impacting on the well-being of residents. For example, being stricter about staff and visitors not entering the home when they have coughs and colds. Another home is starting to explore how they can enhance infection control whilst maintaining a stimulating environment for people living with a dementia who like to walk around the home.

I am sure you will agree that is a lot to pack into an hour-long conversation. Much to share and much to learn. It is good to know that social care is in safe hands. Thank you.

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