Brenda Sweetman, manager of Cooperscroft Care Home in Hertfordshire, says after the turmoil of the last year, allowing families to visit their relatives will not only benefit the residents, but is vital for the families as well.
“It’s strange, this home is usually very busy, buzzing,” Brenda says. “We have a little café area as you walk in which is usually full of loved ones sitting having a cuppa and cake or others sat reading the paper. For a year it hasn’t been like that. We really need to get that back and get the heart of the home back to normal. We are completely committed to supporting visiting back in safely.”
Brenda says returning to some kind of normality is just as important for visitors’ wellbeing as it is for residents. “I think it’s actually more important for the families than the residents,” Brenda explains. “Families feel very isolated. As much as we have tried to keep them in touch, families feel guilty for missing out on years of their loved one’s life. The residents on the other hand seem OK. They have a good relationship with the team members here and a good relationship with each other.”
Brenda says the home was initially worried about getting visitors back in, unsure about the accuracy of the lateral flow tests and the anxiety about COVID re-entering the home. But now the residents and majority of staff have had the vaccine, the time has come.
On 8 March, care homes opened to visitors with every care home resident able to nominate a single named visitor who will be able to enter the care home for regular visits.
“There is a lot of work to be able to do this, but we know it’s worth it,” Brenda says. Care homes must provide PPE and lateral flow tests before every visit as well as follow all infection control measures during visits. Further, care homes can continue to offer visits to other friends or family members with arrangements such as outdoor visiting, substantial screens, visiting pods, or behind windows. “We are lucky to have such a large open space. So being able to do garden visits again will be great,” Brenda adds.
Cooperscroft Care Home is situated on beautiful grounds with a lovely garden. Brenda says she thinks this really helped residents in the first lockdowns. “I think that’s why the residents haven’t struggled as much as people think they have. When it hit us, it was a big shock, but I think generally everyone dealt with it very well. A lot of our residents are of that age where they were maybe in the war or post-war so they are used to living in difficult circumstances. They were very stoic and coped with it really well.”
“On reflection, I feel very lucky to have such an amazing team,” Brenda says. “People have stepped in and put in extra shifts to support the home. That taught me a lot about the team members we have here and how dedicated they are and how reliant we are on them and their good will.”
Thank you to all care home workers for their hard work during the pandemic and always, and to Brenda for sharing her experiences with us.