PPE does more than just protect the body

Samantha Slater


Samantha Slater, activities coordinator at Symonds House in Hitchin tells us how her role has changed and how your support helps our staff.

Three staff member wearing PPE

My role has changed dramatically. As the activities coordinator, I usually arrange trips out, shopping expeditions, days at the seaside, in-house entertainment with family and friends – now I'm supporting with mealtimes. My journey into work usually takes about an hour, and now because of the roads, it takes half the time.

I've been going straight into the kitchen. Then as soon as people start to get up, I assist with breakfast in their rooms. I've been helping with FaceTime, Zoom meetings, WhatsApp-ing - trying to keep residents in contact with their families. My role has completely changed.

Changing how we're supporting residents

The needs have become very, very different. You become aware of someone who may not be coping too well, who may need extra attention, but then you ask yourself if that's going to be at a cost to the other residents? It changes everything in your day. 

I worry about how I can support individuals in this environment. Can I do the usual things like playing skittles, dominoes or do some gardening? You're trying to keep a happy balance when you're in PPE. You've got visors on, masks, and aprons which can be a little disconcerting for some residents. But it's vital.

Getting used to the new normal

For the past few weeks, I've had one gentleman who has a communication board on his chair. He keeps telling me that he's worried and he was frightened when I took his lunch to him. With a lot of reassurance, he got used to it. When I take his lunch to him now, he laughs at me. He finds it hysterical that I've got all this gear on.

He watches the television, and it's always coronavirus related news that he wants to see. When I'm assisting him with lunch, he knows he can chat with me about it. It's his way of coping, and I can reassure him. 

Supporting each other emotionally

We believe that activities take care of the mind, and support workers take care of the body. Now, I feel like it goes a lot deeper than that. Activities are always considered by others to be about going out and having fun. But, they're about taking the time to have conversations with everyone, to talk about their feelings and what they might be going through.

I think we've all pulled together during these difficult times. We're all supporting each other on a far more emotional level than we have ever had to before.

Why PPE is essential

PPE makes you feel so much safer. It's tough to work in because you're trying to breathe and you get very hot. If you wear glasses, they steam up, so it does make the job harder. But it's so important. You can't function without it.

It makes me think - what would happen if we did run out of PPE? It's not just about the protection of your physical body. It's a protection of your mental state as well. 

NHS frontline workers get highlighted often, but care homes get forgotten. It's almost as though it doesn't exist anywhere else except in hospitals. It's essential and saves lives - it's not a luxury.

People who are donating to help us get more PPE are lifesavers; they are guardian angels. Their support enables us to be safe and to keep others safe. Without it, the risks are immeasurable. It shows that people across the country care about all frontline workers. To us, it feels like people are putting their arms around us.

Protect our carers with PPE

We are doing all we can to stop the spread of coronavirus, save lives and keep people safe. More equipment to protect our carers is urgently needed.

Protect our carers with PPE