A Year of Reflection
No one was expecting and I feel still cannot believe we have all been through a worldwide pandemic. Covid 19 brought all kinds of change to everyone’s lives and we are still learning to deal with the changes every day. As the vaccine programme rolls out, we all hope and pray that life will return to normal soon. A reflection of how Swarthmore has dealt with changes throughout the year.
Claire Allsopp, Home Manager decided to take an early lockdown based on the news about Covid 19. The decision made was to lock down the home 3 weeks earlier than recommended. This was no easy decision but the main reason for this was to keep residents and staff as safe as possible. We had to source PPE ourselves, kind donations from family members, local businesses, and staff. Additional measures were put into place such as deeper cleaning using additional antibacterial products by our amazing housekeeping team. PPE was worn by all staff entering the home, residents were asked to remain in the home. We took regular checks such as temperature/oxygen sats in case anyone was showing signs of infection. We continue to do so as a precaution.
We started to use Zoom, WhatsApp, and video calls with families so all our residents could keep in contact with their loved ones during the first lockdown period. Making the decision to lockdown meant that families/friends and any other person visiting the home were no longer able to do so. This decision obviously played on everyone’s mind, especially Claire’s. Lying in bed one evening she was unable to sleep, so with thoughts running through her mind about the pandemic, she decided to post a request on Swarthmore’s Facebook Page. Claire asked for people to write or email letters to residents to help cheer them up during this difficult time. As a result, we were inundated with wonderful letters, pictures, chocolates, CDs and so on. Several schools from near and far were set class projects, letters and painted rocks were sent from Australia, local author donated several books, our councillor donated games, supermarkets gave us chocolates, the local temple offered goodie bags for staff to say thank you and uniform scrubs were made, along with crochet bands to help alleviate painful ears from wearing mask, Bucks Fire rescue donated visors.
We could not believe the response of kind wishes from people all over the world. The letters continued for months afterwards and we have created a memory album for the future as a result. We tried to respond to as many letters as we could at the time, as we were so grateful to everyone. It became a regular discussion with the residents as we read the letters during activities.
Claire was contacted by ITN due to the size of the response to her Facebook request. ITN came to the home and filmed some of our residents through the windows and doors, discussing the response to the letters received from people all over the world. One of our residents also received a bouquet of flowers after the news went live. If you would like to see the Swarthmore on ITN 10 O’clock news, please follow the link through our website on the Newsfeed – direct link below
After a period of lockdown, we followed the next set of Government guidelines which allowed meeting families again under tight restrictions. We designated our Quiet Room for residents to meet with families etc. We placed a Perspex screen between the room and the patio area outside. This meant that socially distanced visits were carried out to retain the safety of everyone inside and outside the home. This worked very well whilst the weather permitted. In the meantime, we started to research options of how we could continue visits in a safe and secure environment.
Ann Marie, Activities Co-ordinator organised our very first Sports Day. The weather was amazing, so everyone came outside to either take part or cheer everyone on during the events. Staff and residents took part in lots of games and races while wearing masks! We had wheelchair races, sack race, football games, hula hoops and so on. We had our very own football coach Mr Tony Doherty who put the staff through their paces with football trials. Sack races had to be the most entertaining as they jumped their way to the finishing line. Awards for All at the end of the afternoon – rosettes and badges were presented to staff and residents. The afternoon was complete with an ice cream; we arranged for a local ice cream van to come to Swarthmore where everyone chose a flavoured ice cream which was delicious. A great afternoon of fun and games was welcomed by everyone at Swarthmore. We also had our first Patio entertainers, singers and musicians who stood outside and played and sang to our residents. We are fortunate that we have a beautiful garden for residents to enjoy. We made the most of it last year.
After months of research, we were fortunate to be able to purchase a Visitor Pod for future visits between residents, families, and friends.
This is a purpose-built, private visiting space that provides a safer environment for residents and their families, by significantly reducing the risk of infection. The Visitor Pod is a comfortable place with windows for ventilation and ramps for easy wheelchair access. When using the pod, residents can safely ‘socially distance’ from their visitors thanks to a clear screen with a two-way intercom. Emergency call points have been installed on both sides of the Pod which is sanitised between visits and a daily deep clean.
The facility is limited to two visitors at any one time, ensuring both residents and their families are as safe as possible. The pod has already provided countless hours of private, safe visiting time for our residents and their loved ones. We continue to follow Government Guidelines to keep our residents and staff as safe as possible.
During the pandemic it has been very difficult to continue with our community events due to restrictions. This meant that all activities were taken on board in house. A national campaign we were delighted to get involved with was inspired by Katrina Cole and the children at Gee Cross Holy Trinity School movement, so we contacted our local school, St Marys Girls School in Gerrards Cross. Each year Swarthmore residents would normally visit the school to watch their Christmas productions and other events during the year. The only way we were able to communicate this year, was through this campaign. On Wednesday 9th December, teachers and pupils took a short walk to Swarthmore Care Home and delivered amazing artwork which contained lots of warm wishes. The residents sat in the dining room, peering through the windows, waiting in suspense for the girls and teachers to arrive. As they approached the dining room window, we saw smiling faces and waving hands appearing in the distance. The arrival of new faces brought delight, happiness, and tears of joy. The residents were amazed that these girls took the time to come and wish everyone a ‘Merry Christmas’. The girls performed a dance and sang ‘We Wish You a Merry Christmas’ which was wonderful and very much appreciated by all our residents and staff at Swarthmore. Hearts and Poems were exchanged with some chocolates for the girls to be shared later.
Christmas time for anyone is normally full of fun, lots of visitors and just a general buzz in the air. We would normally have lots of entertainment in the home from external production companies, musicians, visit from Santa and much more. Once again Ann Marie came up with a wonderful idea of a Pantomime. A production script of ‘Sleeping Beauty’ was put to the members of staff and before we knew it scripts were passed around and lines were learnt. The cast included a Narrator, king, queen, nanny, jester, several fairies, fairy godmother, evil fairy, prince, princess, and a minstrel. Costumes to suit were handed out, we had a makeshift backdrop for the stage in the lounge area and off we went to ‘break a leg’ so they say on stage! Lots of singing and dancing in between scenes, we even served ice cream during the break. The residents thoroughly enjoyed the performance and thanked everyone at the end. This was one of those special moments, able to see the pleasure this brought to the residents that afternoon. Families and members of staff put together a video of warm wishes which was shown to the residents on Christmas Day. As families and friends were only able to visit residents in our Visitor Pod we thought it would bring another special and different moment to the residents day. Without technology it would have been very difficult for everyone – without Zoom and WhatsApp contact would have been almost impossible for residents and families to have contact. We were fortunate enough to receive 2 iPads via the NHS government scheme, we were chosen as a winner from an insurance company after a relative nominated the home for the wonderful care her mother received at the end of her life. It’s amazing how we all adapt in these unprecedented times, and how quickly we have managed to learn new skills
We were one of the first in Buckinghamshire and one of six care homes in England to be chosen to have in home vaccinations. We have a good relationship with the Chiltern Care commissioning group (CCCG) and we were delighted to welcome the team in on 17th December. Staff are tested once a week, and residents once a month. We also test staff twice weekly with the Lateral Flow Device (LFD). This is what our visitors and contactors also use.
One year on
With new guidance we welcomed back visitors recently, one named person per resident as well as a continuation of visitors in the pod as many visitors are themselves shielding. PPE, restrictions, NHS app and technology are now part of our ‘norm’.
Today marks a year of reflection of Covid19 in the UK and we joined with the nation to remember the residents we have lost during this time, staff members who have lost family and friends due to Covid and for all of us who have in one way or another experience loss over the last year.
Today, we also took time to reflect on how we have reinforced the values of Swarthmore in the home and with each other appreciating what each of the values mean in much more depth than perhaps this time last year- namely caring, community, peace, integrity. We are also grateful for the hard work of all keyworkers and the resilience of our amazing residents who have made this all worthwhile.