April 2, 2020
I last wrote to you on 18 March which now seems a very long time ago. We are now in a period of lockdown – a situation we would never have even contemplated as a nation three months ago!
Continuity of our service
Referring back to my last letter I said that we had every intention of continuing our care as well as we possibly can. This is still true and our carers continue to go about their daily visits out of a great sense of duty to make sure you are being looked after as well as possible. Many of our staff have shown signs of having the virus and have had to self-isolate and others have had to self-isolate because members of their household have shown signs of having the virus. A third group of staff have underlying medical conditions who have been advised to self-isolate. Taken together we probably have about 15% of staff absent for one reason or another. By way of compensation various ex-staff have returned to us because their current employers are in financial difficulties and can no longer employ them. On balance therefore we are still able to make our normal visits.
This is a very topical subject and Government advice is still that carers should only be wearing facemasks if they are visiting a client with symptoms of having the virus. There is a national shortage of facemasks although we do have limited stocks to be used when we need them. A small number have been issued to carers so that they can use them if they feel the need. To put the requirement in context when facemasks are used properly a new mask should be worn for each visit and, with about 1 million people in the country requiring care at home and having, say, two visits per day, then the country would need 14 million masks per week or 728 million per year! The country as a whole simply doesn’t have this number of masks available at present.
During this period of lockdown I believe it is very important to find a way of safely interacting with others. For those of you in our Extra Care Housing schemes please remember that the whole basis of these schemes is for you to enjoy independent living. Of course we should all do what we can to avoid being infected by heeding the 2 metre rule and by avoiding gatherings with others but please do make the time to get some fresh air by opening a window or going for a short walk or having a sit down on the nearest patio or balcony and have a chat with others in safe range. Drawing on our own recent experiences we have been in recent contact with many friends, old and new, by using various video methods on the internet some of which are really very easy to use (eg Facetime, House Party, Zoom and Microsoft teams). Only last night I had a virtual pub night with some of my old friends from University 40 years ago and we all had a laugh about the antics we got up to all those years ago (which I am definitely not going to share with you!). The five of us were all able to get together even though we were calling from Buckinghamshire, Cheshire, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Washington DC. If you don’t have a laptop or an ipad/tablet please try to get hold of one and ask a member of your family to set you up so that you can find a new way to stay in touch with friends and family.
I’m not going to say much here because there is so much information available elsewhere. Instead I would like to let you know about how it has affected us at 1st Homecare. We have probably had about a dozen staff members who have taken time off because they had the symptoms. None of them have been tested for the virus because the test isn’t yet available outside the NHS so we don’t know many of these actually had the virus but some were confined to bed and felt very unwell. Fortunately all have recovered and are back at work (after the appropriate period of absence) or are still recovering. We have had two clients with symptoms of the virus – one was cared for by her daughter and was later tested negative and another declined care for a period and is expected to recover soon (and has not been tested).
These are difficult times and many of the difficulties relate not just to the illness itself but the changed lifestyles we are now forced into. Many of our staff are facing major changes in their life – perhaps their relative is ill, their spouse may have lost his/her job, maybe there are different people living at home causing a different atmosphere at home, or maybe some people are just so unused to the situation they are in that they are scared. This applies to all of us so could I please ask that we all show a little patience if your carer is a little more flustered than usual or that you don’t get your usual carer (because your usual carer has had to self-isolate).
When we get through all this I am excited to envisage the ‘new normal’ – who would have thought a few weeks ago that some shops would no longer accept cash, that kids could be taught effectively by watching lessons delivered by their teacher on an ipad, that so many people can work effectively at home? Could I urge you all to have a think about what you will do differently when all this over? Or maybe have a think about what you will do when we return to normal? Could you arrange a visit to a beach, or arrange for an old friend to visit you? Why not share with your relatives a ‘bucket list’ of things you want to do and see what can be done to achieve them?
Stay safe and keep well.