Each week, we receive dozens of stories from care workers and managers across the country as they battle to provide the best care and support possible amid this crisis. These stories are remarkable – like the people behind them. Many of them are uplifting. Here are just a few of our colleagues’ heroic, kind and increasingly widely-appreciated efforts.
Caring for the care workers
Front-line care workers continue to deliver the best service possible in extremely challenging circumstances. For some, that means potential exposure to the virus. One care worker in Cannock sat outside a sick patient’s window, talking to him, for four hours while he waited for paramedics, reports regional manager Scott Higgins-Wright. Regional manager Tracy Asbery also sat with frightened patients as they prepared to be taken to hospital, reports Sarah Thomas, regional director, South.
As care workers deal with both their own, and others’ fear, those care workers need looking after, too. A handful, including Tracy, have become sick themselves and are self-isolating. Many of those still on duty are extending their work-days (and nights), foregoing rest, continuing their rounds through eerily empty towns, villages and communities. They rarely see colleagues or family. “It feels like the calm before the storm,” says Samantha Bond, regional manager, Northern Ireland and Blackpool. “It’s weird, because we’re driving around, doing the fire-fighting, and there’s no-one else on the road.”
Managers like Samantha are doing their utmost to keep their care workers safe, to stay in touch and to boost morale. “I send messages to them every day to say how proud I am,” says Hannah Ford, extra-care branch manager in Salford. “That keeps them going.” Lynne Hewitt, regional manager Scotland, has split her branch teams in two, ensuring that if one group does go off sick, the branch office can remain open. “It’s so I can assure the care workers that they won’t be on their own,” she explains. “There will always be someone there.”
Samantha Price, branch manager at Ebbw Vale, runs daily team calls on Zoom to keep spirits up. The team updates Facebook pages with nuggets of useful information for each other and for other care workers, such as lists of garages offering free MOTs. “On a Friday, we take print-screens of the Zoom call, with our thumbs up, and post it on the care workers’ page to say ‘thank you for this week’. It’s so important to stay in touch as care workers go about their work, Samantha insists; especially now as “we don’t see them as much.”
Mel Flanagan, branch manager in York, has packaged up carbolic soap and hand-towels in air-tight bags for each of her care workers to carry on their rounds with them, in case there are no clean washing facilities at clients’ houses. “It is for the care workers’ use only, and means they don’t have to rely on those providing it, especially when in lock-down.”
A lot more needs to be done. “Everyone is scared; everyone wants a face-mask. There is anger,” says regional director Sarah Thomas. There is also more work than usual to assuage concerned family-members, alongside the clients themselves. “We’re having to deal with partners…putting in extra visits because of how they are feeling,” adds Sarah.
Some of Samantha Price’s care workers are FaceTime-ing family members, during their care visit, to reassure them that their loved-one is okay. “We don’t normally do that,” says Samantha, but the practice evolved naturally, from care workers’ “exceptional” instincts, she reports. (The same selfless instincts led care workers Della and Teresa, after their double-handed run, to queue up for two hours to collect a customer’s medicines, allowing the family to take a step back.)
City and County Group staff throughout the country are going the extra mile, drawing on their instincts, expertise, networks and relationships to keep things going, often against the odds.
The public is trying to help, too. Many have sent in stories of spontaneous applause, letters from school-children, donated goods, hand-embroidered face-masks, and much more.
Care workers in Alison Phillip’s team in Redhill, Surrey, regularly make up little bags of soap, flannels and shampoo to take to clients – even during normal times. When Alison realised that clients were going to struggle for daily shopping and essentials, she appealed to her community through Facebook and has since been inundated with products, including toiletries, food-stuffs and more, reports Sarah Thomas. Feltham shops and garages are offering to deliver, for free, whatever care workers and clients need to keep going. With similar generosity from local schools, who delivered leftover food when they shut down, toiletries from local cosmetics firms, and even toilet-paper from neighbours, “the training room is now like a little shop, with items that can easily be distributed when needed,” Sarah says. “We no longer have to worry about the shopping calls we do, since, if needed, we, can make up a large bag from what we have.”
An Asda worker in Monk Cross lifted Mel out of her gloom. “I honestly felt lost, as we are all facing an unknown quantity, and ultimately putting ourselves in the line of fire,” she recalls. But then one day, as she perused the empty shelves in Asda, a store worker stopped her. After establishing that she worked alongside the NHS, he shook her hand “with such intensity, looked me straight in the eyes and said how proud he was of all of us for the work we were doing,” says Mel. For her, “the humanity of this one man erased those fears and made me realise that actually, people to care. People do appreciate us. People do acknowledge our skills and determination.”
If you have a story please let us know: Covid19response@candchealthcare.co.uk