Voices from the frontline

14 May, 2020

Some of us you know well, some of us you see regularly, some of us you never see. We are the nurses, Occupational Therapist, Psychologist, team leaders, senior care assistants, care assistants, chefs, Kitchen assistants, activity coordinators, administrators, receptionists, laundry assistants, cooks, cleaners, maintenance, those behind the scenes, the voices of the frontlines. These are our day to day and our extraordinary experiences.  

I’m Sue Allsopp, and my role at TVC is to manage all of the training and qualifications for everyone in the company.  While I’ve worked in social care for over 40 years, I haven’t been ‘at the sharp end’ for over 15. A couple of weeks ago, I responded to a request to support within one of our homes. It would be untrue to say that I’m not apprehensive about working in the care sector at the moment and even more so in a care home. Still, it’s a Monday morning at 8 am, and I’d just arrived for a shift. This would be my first proper shift for over 20 years!  and to say I was anxious is an understatement, not about Covid 19 as such, but more about, would I be able to do the job.

Training during Covid restrictions

The day started a little chaotically as I needed to do all of the extra tasks that the home has had to put in place due to the Covid 19 pandemic. I took my temperature, filled in the health form and collected my uniform.  Most importantly washed my hands for the prescribed 20 seconds, something I would be doing regularly throughout my shift. So, there I was, listening to the handover and looking at all of the staff around me, all of us aware of what’s happening in the outside world but not wanting our concerns or anxieties to impact on the ladies and gentlemen in our care.

The home has 2 floors, and because of the Covid 19 measures TVC had in place to protect everyone from the virus entering the home, and while we were waiting for test results, each group of staff are allocated to a single level, and I was going to be working on the ground floor. While some of the ladies and gentlemen are being isolated in their rooms for their own safety, daily life is still going on. I can’t deny that the fact that some of the ladies and gentlemen had to stay in their rooms did cause me some concern, as there was no clarity as to if they did or didn’t have the virus.  Having said that, everyone knew how to use the PPE, and if any of the ladies or gentlemen were on a one to one, it was the experienced staff who took on this role.

Training Basics

My first duty of the day was breakfast, and I was asked to support a lovely gentleman with his porridge. Sad to say, I think I managed to get more in his bushy moustache than in his mouth, but we had a good time, and thanks to his acceptance of my clumsiness, I didn’t feel too inept.  We managed a little better with his tea, but I still think that he was laughing more at me than with me!

Whilst I felt confident to deliver personal care, the same can’t be said of my understanding of the alarm system, and I apologise again to the staff who had to come to my rescue on a number of occasions when I forgot to turn it off.  The first time I went into a room by not turning the call off, it meant that more staff ended up coming to assist – at least they took my ineptitude with good grace and showed me what I needed to do.  I still managed to forget that on a couple of other occasions, but all in all, I feel I managed well and didn’t cause too much chaos for the rest of the staff.

I was asked to make sure that one of the gentlemen had his tea, but he seemed reluctant to drink it, enjoying dancing to the radio instead. I tried a new tack, and by dancing a few dance steps then offering him his tea, I did succeed in getting him to drink all of his tea.  I’m sure anyone viewing this unusual ‘tea dance’ would agree that I’m not quite ‘Strictly’ material!

Caring and Supportive

It was a real delight to see how dedicated, caring, and supportive the staff were. Even under the current circumstances of fear and paranoia, they were still able to reassure and comfort our ladies and gentlemen.  During lunch, when one of the ladies was visibly upset, a carer adeptly stepped in and talked quietly and calmly to her, stroking her hand and little by little, she calmed and even ended up chuckling at something funny that the carer said before finishing her lunch.

I can honestly say that my admiration for all of our amazing staff has increased 10-fold as not only did this experience remind me of why I came to work in social care in the first place it also showed me how resilient and dedicated everyone is.  We are all aware that the pandemic is taking a very heavy toll on everyone generally, but none of this was apparent.  It was gratifying to see how seriously everyone is taking the need to protect our vulnerable ladies and gentlemen, with everyone going that step further to ensure that they are safe. Making sure that they don’t feel isolated and alone whilst still letting families have as much contact in a safe way as possible.  Thinking of fun activities that will brighten the day and cheering loudly any success.

It was an honour to work alongside you even for such a short period – so every Thursday night, all staff of Towerview Care, it’s you who I applaud.

The next voices from the front line will be Friday, May 22nd

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