Amelia Benskin, Registered Manager of Quality Life UK, talks about the challenges the care industry faces and deals with the real question that a number of families are asking themselves for the first time:
Without a doubt, the Coronavirus pandemic is the biggest peacetime crisis that our country has faced in living memory.
Never before has our government been so dramatic in the way that they have imposed controls and restrictions on the way that we all live our lives. ‘Lockdown’, ‘social distancing’, ‘self-isolation’ and ‘shielding’ are phrases that are now all too familiar to us and have become part of our everyday vocabulary.
The public’s response to the challenges that we face has been nothing short of incredible. The vast majority of us have been quick to drastically change the way we live our lives and make the sacrifices necessary to help stop the spread of the virus and alleviate the pressures on our NHS.
At Quality Life UK, we too have been quick to respond and have significantly changed the way we deliver our live-in care services to ensure that all of our clients are as safe as they possibly can be.
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has recently assessed our service as “Outstanding” in terms of our responsiveness. I am particularly proud of this because it recognises the hard work of all of our carers and managers and their ability to adapt and quickly respond to change.
Whilst Coronavirus has presented a number of challenges to our communities, we’ve found that a new problem has arisen in many families for which the answer isn’t always obvious:
Before the pandemic, there were many older people who were able to live independently at home, albeit with a little help from friends and family. Maybe your Mum or Dad was one of them. They could happily get by, providing they had the support of someone to help with shopping, attending doctor’s appointment, running errands and just generally being available to lend a helping hand whenever it was needed. In other words, they were ok with your support.
Typically, these people would also have fairly active and engaging social lives. They would perhaps enjoy visiting friends, take part in leisure activities, attend local community groups and generally did the type of things that we all did and took for granted.
However, on 23rd March, all of this came to a crashing halt. For every individual over the age of 70, the Government’s advice is that they should minimise contact with the outside world.
This has had a dramatic shock on the lives of generally healthy and independent individuals who now suddenly feel trapped in their own homes and completely cut off from the community.
Frustratingly, the Government’s advice is that we shouldn’t even visit our own parents during this time, except for delivering essential food and medicine.
Not being able to see Mum and Dad and provide them with the support they need has caused a great deal of anxiety and worry for so many people. Some of the particular concerns that families have shared with me include:
If Mum and Dad can no longer go to the shops how can they get the food and supplies they need? Sometimes family members and friends are able to help but this isn’t always the case, such as when they don’t live close by.
Some supermarkets have prioritised home delivery slots for the vulnerable and elderly, but slots are still very hard to come by and not everyone has the ability to place orders on-line
Mum and Dad might have enjoyed a number of regular community groups and social activities, but these are now all closed.
Bowls clubs, dancing classes, flower clubs, book clubs and regular church attendance are just a few examples of community activities which were available but are now closed indefinitely. Some older people now have almost no interaction with the outside world.
The lockdown has meant that most of us are at home most of the time. This is tough for us all, but often it is far harder for older relatives.
Whilst we can busy ourselves with working from home, running around after kids and keeping in touch with others over various digital platforms, often older people have nothing. This can lead to long and empty days where feelings of loneliness can be overwhelming.
One solution might be to arrange regular ‘house calls’ through a care agency. This would involve a carer visiting Mum or Dad for 30 minutes or so, three or four times a day.
Whilst this might provide some benefits, for many it doesn’t feel right. This type of care sometimes doesn’t provide any continuity with different carers visiting on each occasion. Furthermore, because visits are so short, there is little time to chat, and relationship building is very difficult. It’s also hard for the carers to identify or deal with any problems that might arise.
However, perhaps the biggest concern is the risk of spreading infection. With carers typically making over 15 house calls a day, there is an increased risk of Coronavirus being bought into the house.
We are finding that an increasing number of people are now turning to us and seeking support by way of live-in care purely for the duration of the Coronavirus pandemic. There has been an enormous increase in the demand for this type of care and it is perhaps easy to see why.
For a number of years, live-in care has been regarded as the most effective and beneficial form of care for anyone who is able to continue living in their own home but needs support on a day-to-day basis. This is because individuals receive one-to-one care from a dedicated carer who lives with them in their own home.
We have adapted our live-in care services in response to the demands that the virus has created. Some of the particular benefits, which we can now offer include:
We understand that live-in care might only be needed for a short period of time. We all hope that the effects of the pandemic will ease over time and that our lives can go back to something like ‘normal’ before too long. Because of this, all our contracts are terminable on just 28 days notice and there is no initial minimum period.
We supply experienced, professionally trained and DBS-checked carers to live with clients in the comfort of their own home and provide round the clock care and support.
Our carers ‘lockdown’ with clients in their own homes, which means that the occasions that someone needs to enter or leave the house are greatly reduced, thereby minimising the risk of exposure to the virus.
We have been put onto the priority lists for Tesco and Sainsburys, which means that we can arrange for weekly groceries to be delivered to all of our clients’ homes. We can also arrange for medications to be delivered too.
This removes the need for anyone to visit the shops, which greatly reduces the chance of contact with the virus.
We have long-established relationships with trusted suppliers of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). All of our clients’ homes are supplied with all of the PPE that is required to keep clients safe, including gloves, masks and 70% alcohol hand sanitiser.
In addition to providing compassionate care and support, our carers are also there to offer companionship and to make sure our clients continue to have some fun!
Before placing a carer with a client, we take the time to get to know each client inside out, including their likes, dislikes and generally what makes them tick! We then arrange a carer who has similar values and personality who perhaps shares similar hobbies and interests too.
We find that this process helps to quickly develop trusted and meaningful relationships and we find that many of our clients enjoy a close personal friendship with their carer.
Our tech-savvy carers help clients stay in touch with friends and family in various ways. Carers often help clients with FaceTime, Skype, Zoom or whatever works best to make keeping in touch easier.
If you’re worried about how your Mum, Dad or any relative or friend can receive the support that they need during these difficult times then please contact us by giving us a call on 01509 76 78 79 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Our friendly staff will be happy to listen to your circumstances and suggest ways in which our live-in care team might be able to help.
I wish you all the very best of health during these difficult times. Please do remember that we are always here if you need us.