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How the pandemic has changed the lives of domiciliary care workers

During the pandemic the media have given a great deal of coverage to the excellent work carried out by NHS and care home staff. But I think it’s fair to say that to some degree domiciliary care staff have not received the same depth of media attention, although their efforts must surely deserve it.

I read of a company the other day Forget Me Not Care Ltd, which gives us an insight into the commitment of domiciliary care staff. The company founded by former nurses Karen and Selina 15 years ago to provide domiciliary care to local residents in their homes. Today, the company employs 28 staff.

The directors say that despite sometimes of very low morale, staff have been excellent at staying positive and keeping up team spirit.

How lives have changed

Karen has spoken about how their staff’s days and lives have changed since the outbreak of Coronavirus last spring, and the effect it has had on them and their clients.

“We keep in contact with our team daily where possible, as we are aware of the need to keep communicating at these strange times,” Karen said. “Stress and mental health is a high priority for us as a company.

We fully understand and appreciate what the team do for the company, keeping us and our clients as safe as we possibly can. The whole team, from carers, office staff to managers, are working hard and safely in this very difficult time.”

“As well as trying to manage the team, we are also very aware of trying to protect our clients as this has had a huge impact on their lives too. Some are not able to go out and socialise or see their family members, people have lost loved ones and been unable to attend funerals, they may have missed family celebrations, such as births and marriages. So, morale has been very low at times.”

“Our team are excellent at staying positive and keeping up the team spirit. I personally cannot thank them enough.”

A typical day prior to the pandemic

Outlining a typical day for a carer prior to the pandemic restrictions, Karen explained, “Carer (A) would start work at 9am after taking her two children to school, and work until 2.30pm Monday to Friday, ready to pick her children up at 3pm. She would also work every other weekend 4-10pm.”

Duties included getting clients up and ready for their day, providing personal care, support with nutrition and hydration needs, medication if required – giving the client a choice at all times – and enabling the client to achieve their best outcomes using verbal and physical assistance for that visit, following the care plan in place.

Even before Coronavirus, carers would be wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) like aprons and gloves. Karen said, “The carer has her rota to follow – some visits are 30 minutes, some upwards of 2 – 4 hours. Short visits are for safety checks, medication or meal visits, then we would do some light shopping and housework, or respite for live-in carers and family members – for those clients who require it.

“We look to give a carer a run of clients in the same area where possible and provide continuity for the clients. The carer will travel from client to client with travel time. The carer may be working with other carers, doing a double-up visit, this would be due to moving and handling requirements or to meet individual client’s needs.”

A typical day during the pandemic

Since and during the pandemic, for example, that same carer (A) cannot work for Forget Me Not on a Monday or Friday due to her children not being able to attend school on these days. On a Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday her children go to school from 8.30am -2.30pm.

Karen said, “If the children have, or teachers have been in contact with Covid, this can mean a call to the carer and having to finish early to pick up her children earlier, so we are always trying to be prepared for this!

“But we are not always able to, which is adding stress to the whole team.” Extra time has to be allowed by carers for extra PPE procedure, ie, collecting equipment from the office, putting it on before going into the client’s home and the amount of time they have to change the PPE, as well as the increased hand hygiene routine, the use of visors and masks, and the cleaning of all equipment used on each visit.

Karen said, “They also have to explain why this is needed to the clients, and we as a company have not been given any extra time to undertake these tasks, we are just expected to do it in the planned visit time.

“Carers are going above and beyond, and if you can imagine, when we had the hot spell in the summer, wearing all the extra PPE was a nightmare.

Karen said staff had foregone holidays since the pandemic started in order to cover the extra work. She is hoping 2021 will be a better year.

Summary

Karen’s description of the life of a domiciliary care worker captures how life has changed for domiciliary care workers during the pandemic. I have nothing to add, other than Karen and her team who have shown compassion, care and commitment should be rewarded.

Albert Cook BA, MA & Fellow Charted Quality Institute Managing Director Bettal Quality Consultancy

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