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  • OPINION: How to boost resident morale at care homes

    By Caroline Bishop, Director of Nursing at Fonthill Care
    What measures/practices have you implemented to ensure the safety of residents since the start of the pandemic? Are there any safety practices that have been implemented since the first lockdown in 2020?
    By mid-march when lockdown was imposed by the UK government, we had suspended all visits from non-residents except in circumstances such as end of life. These measures have gradually been varying to an extent in line with lockdown restrictions, but through the entire pandemic we have ensured all residents have had access to video call software in order to see and speak to loved ones.
    In the initial outbreak, staff moved into the home to support the residents and maintain a bubble. If staff do fall unwell or show symptoms, they are given paid leave, and we also offer financial incentives for staff to receive the flu vaccination. 
    We have further developed our safety practices since the first lockdown, such as by creating staff changing facilities and laundry services, and implementing a policy where staff wear scrubs instead of uniforms. As well as this, we have adjusted our air handling system to optimum airflow settings throughout the building, and developed and distributed PPE and infection control booklets to all staff members.

    How have you kept up the morale for both residents and care home staff in recent months?

    We strongly believe that by showing compassion and support to our staff, the overall atmosphere in the care home will be as positive as possible and this will keep the residents uplifted. This has been such a difficult time for care home staff for a range of reasons, and we continually strive to do all we can to be a source of strength for them.

    For example, we have made sure our staff feel valued by providing them with takeaway lunches, and by offering praise and encouragement in an online compliments channel we’ve set up. Even staff who must be absent due to vulnerabilities are supported with our open channels of communication.We even sent flowers to all staff who have contracted Covid – sometimes it’s the small gestures that mean a lot.

    In order to further lessen the burden of this difficult time on staff, we have provided private CBT therapy, created a staff support line and paid for taxis for those who would otherwise struggle getting to work safely.

    Keeping the morale upbeat is so important, and we’ve done this by making the most of the range of skill sets our staff possess. Whether through singing sessions, art workshops or haircuts in our own salon, we have been embracing the fun activities that we can to keep staff and residents happy.

    What long-term lessons have you learned for improving care standards in the future?

    The Covid-19 pandemic has been an extraordinary learning curve for us at Fonthill Care. We have been humbled by the sheer commitment, empathy and extraordinary standards of care delivered by our staff, and by the willingness and determination of our residents not to let it stop them from leading a fulfilling life. 

    It goes without saying that we are now better prepared to handle a similar pandemic in the future, as the majority of safety measures that we put in place proved to work extremely well. We pride ourselves on taking time to learn what we need to know to look after each individual resident, by understanding what matters to them personally, and how we can make sure these needs are fulfilled. We believe that delivering individualised, excellent personal care truly transforms lives. 

    The government has recently announced that care home residents will be allowed one nominated indoor visitor from March 8th – how are you planning to manage this logistically in your care home? Do you think it will make a big difference to boosting morale amongst residents?

    The news that restrictions are gradually beginning to ease is bringing great joy to residents and staff, who love having visitors come to the home. However, logistically, this will be very challenging to manage. 

    Firstly, an effective system for booking time slots will need to be set up and managed by our administrative staff. As well as this, we predict that many residents will struggle to identify one person they would like to have as their designated visitor, with some requesting we bend the rules a little to help ease this difficult decision. Even with only one visitor per resident, all of these visitors will have to be tested. This means we need to ensure staff are available to carry out this process, and train them accordingly, wearing more PPE and cleaning more frequently and thoroughly between visits. Despite the difficulties ahead, we are committed to ensuring that our residents can see their loved ones in a way that retains the safety of everyone involved in our home.

    About Caroline Bishop

    Caroline worked in the NHS for 20 years before joining Fonthill Care. In her most recent post she was responsible for the provision of all district nursing across St Albans, Hertfordshire. Caroline’s role involved managing community matrons, specialist palliative care nurses, community nurses and therapists dealing with complex health issues in the local community.

    Caroline began her NHS career by training as a registered adult nurse at Preston University in 1995.  She later completed a Post Graduate Degree in District Nursing at London South Bank and has held a number of senior clinical and managerial posts in various specialities.


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