Covid-19 Diaries. Care Homes

22 April 20

Posted at 10:15

Chase FarmChase House

I cannot speak with any authority or professional knowledge about care homes of course but care homes have been a hot news topic in the UK for the last week or ten days so it is worth me recording that fact and in doing so share some personal experience and anecdotes. I mentioned in a previous blog that there is  a care home about half a kilometre up a track next to my house. The building that is now the care home was originally a farmhouse, Chase farm, and in fact my own house was originally a farmworkers cottage attached to the farm. The actual farmhouse was sold separate to the farm many years ago, around 1960 I believe. When I was at school in the mid sixties a friend of mine actually lived in the house although at that time I did not live in Arlesey. Fast forward about twenty years and we had purchased our house from the estate that still owned the farm and another acquaintance owned and lived in the farmhouse, now known as Chase House. I remember quite vividly a party I went to in the house, it must have been the early '80s as the guy who lived there had a CD player, none of us had seen a CD before. I remember people stubbing cigarettes out on the few CDs he possessed just to prove they were indestructible, which of course they weren't. I've no doubt some of us will need the services of care homes one day as a result of such parties!

Chase House Care HomeChase House Care Home

The private house went on to become a care home and over the years the building has been dramatically but tastefully extended to three or four times its original size. It is a privately run care home and I believe it has maintained good ratings in terms of the quality and breadth of care it provides. I know people who have had relatives live there and I know people who work there. I've not really heard anything but praise for the care provided and I have the greatest admiration and respect for those carers who work there.

As I said earlier care homes have been a hot topic in the news recently. News nowadays consists of 90% plus related to the coronavirus pandemic. It is wall to wall, it is dynamic and increasing it seeks to apportion blame. Our government is receiving criticism about the number of deaths in our care homes. Personally I feel the only area we can confidently say the government, although strictly speaking it is the previous government as we recently, just last autumn, had a general election. The previous government(s) were responsible for financial cut backs that were severe, had they not been so severe perhaps we would have been better able to respond to this pandemic. Beyond that this present government were in the process of reversing some of the austerity we have experienced. The pandemic though struck too soon for there to be any effect. I am cautious to blame the government for the desperate situation we see in our care homes for a number of reasons:

  • First of all care home residents are by nature elderly, many have underlying health problems, they live in quite crowded conditions with much communal activity. When visitors were allowed earlier in the pandemic they arrived often from fair distances away. Residents are often not located in a home close to their relatives. These factors alone make the care home environment ideal for the virus to spread. Social distancing is nigh on impossible in the average care home.
  • The private sector accounts for a large number of care homes from big corporations managing multiple homes to smaller privately run homes. These are all businesses and in many cases quite profitable. Yet it feels as though the finger of blame for any lack of preparedness points at the government as opposed to the business owners.

Today the senior medical officer Chris Witty expanded on my first point above. I have not seen figures but I strongly suspect that in years when we have bad flu epidemics and winter vomiting outbreaks, care homes see a disproportionate level of fatalities. In reality care homes see a disproportionate number of fatalities anyway. For many the period spent in a care home leads up to and includes end of life. Of course this does not belittle in any way the horrendous situation we face in our care homes at this time made even worse by the fact that care home residents die alone without their family being able to visit.The role of the family is taken up by the already overstretched and I suspect quite frightened care staff. In reality they have done this before on a smaller scale as some people are in effect abandoned with no relatives when they are in care. Never on this scale though and never under the shadow of Covid-19.

The job and the dedication of our care workers is hopefully being recognised. Gradually they are replacing celebrities and sports star as the real heroes in our society. Despite the criticism being levelled at the way the UK has responded to this pandemic I believe our care home sector has faired well against the odds. I remember reading early in this pandemic of care homes in Spain being abandoned, patients being discovered days later all having been left to die. It is a real credit to our care home staff across all sectors that they not only care for every single resident they do so with love and dignity. 

My mother in law lived in a care home for two years (not Chase House), she suffered from dementia and Lupus and had a stoma. She died in the home in 2018. I am thankful she is not there during this pandemic.

I mentioned in a previous blog about applauding with the staff from Chase House last Thursday evening. Tomorrow I will do so again with some extra vigour.

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Covid-19 Diaries 17th April 2020

17 April 20

Posted at 11:33

Broadway Cinema Letchworth

 

It’s Friday although days are much the same as each other in this pandemic. Thursday’s have changed though. We still put the bins out on Thursday nights but we now value the bin men. Bin men were last valued in the seventies when we were hit with the three day week. Since then they are at best invisible at worst despised for causing minor traffic hold ups or once in a blue moon missing a bin. However we now thank them, leave them notes saying how wonderful they are and include them in our weekly round of applause that happens on Thursday evenings at 8pm.

It started four weeks ago when the country at 8pm came outdoors, hung out of windows and stood on balconies and everyone clapped in appreciation of our NHS workers, nurses and doctors. It was dark that first Thursday and amazing to hear clapping, whooping and saucepans being banged from people all around most of whom we could hear but not see. This has continued every Thursday and is now a thank you to all key workers. On one side of my house is a drive that leads to a care home. It was originally a gothic farmhouse so it lays half a kilometre from the road it has been extended and today is a much larger building. Last night just before 8pm many of the care workers from the home walked past my house to the road, still dressed in their personal protective equipment. They were mainly carers and a couple of nurses, they were all young and mostly female. When 8 o clock came they clapped and cheered their hearts out. They were applauding the many people who were outside their homes applauding the care workers! Saucepans were being banged, people were cheering. Standing the other side of my garden fence to the care workers I felt quite emotional. It is spring now so it was still light the applauders were all in view, the clapping lasts for 5 minutes or so, folk go back into their locked down houses and the care workers returned to care for their guests. I had a tear in my eye, six weeks ago an event like this would have been unimaginable.

Politicians and journalists have been using the word ‘unprecedented’ a lot recently and I guess it does apply to so many of our current experiences. Just about every part of life has changed over recent weeks. We’ve been told lockdown will continue for at least three more weeks. Many are questioning if and when things will return to normal. A friend of mine put his thoughts on returning to normal into words. I thoroughly agree with his sentiment and with his permission I’ve reproduced his words here (courtesy Andrew Ward).

I’ve heard the phrase “when things return to normal” a lot lately.

I suppose it is a notion that many of us are clinging to, but it has got me wondering, what is it that people actually mean by ‘normal’?

Do they mean a return to being slaves of economic growth? A return to the endless, relentless, chasing after the wind? When things get back to normal will the insatiable appetite to build over beautiful countryside return and exploitation of the environment resume? Will vital services be undervalued and starved of resources again? Will communities return to having an attitude of indifference (or worse) to those around and within them?

When things return to ‘normal,’ will there then be no further need to show respect and gratitude for our NHS? Will we still appreciate it’s staff, other emergency and essential service providers, shop staff, refuse collectors and other key workers? Will it mean we’ll no longer be generally more considerate and sensitive of others around us? Or will we return to lighting bonfires just as next door hang their washing out or create gridlock on the high street because it was ‘our right of way’ after all? Will returning to ‘normal’ mean that nobody need bother helping their neighbour(s) anymore - whether elderly, vulnerable or otherwise?

Will it mean we no longer have the time or the inclination to reflect on the brevity of life and the things that really matter both here and now and beyond? Will we no longer cherish our family and friends and generally be content just to ‘be’? Will we give up exercising together for an hour each day and treasuring the natural world just beyond our own doorstep? Will we abandon local shops and suppliers and give up being socially aware, engaged and responsible?

I'm really hoping not, as I don't want that things to return to that 'normal'

 

 

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