What coronavirus taught me about carers

Michelle Lecheminant

Michelle Lecheminant is the deputy manager at our St. Bridget’s service in  West Sussex. She tells us what working on the frontline during the coronavirus pandemic has taught her. 

Residents and staff sitting in a circle clapping for carers and the NHS

What have the last three months at St. Bridget’s taught me about the profession?

Firstly, that the carers I work with are even bigger heroes than I realised.

It seems forever since we were in a ‘normal’ state of play. At the very beginning of the pandemic, we had the difficult job of explaining the situation to our residents - and then supporting them and their families through what can only be described as the grief of indefinite separation.

Keeping our residents connected

For families who visited almost daily, it was hard for them to hand over the safety and comfort of their loved ones to us completely. We have had regular phone calls with them and sent them regular updates through instant messaging. I made sure all the relatives we had on file had my work mobile number and then texted them all to tell they could contact me for support and reassurance whenever they felt the need.

From there on, it was all hands on deck. We had staff working solidly to deep clean the entire home. We rearranged computers and physiotherapy equipment so residents could use them while social distancing. We enlisted everyone working at the service to help with supporting the residents.

Working to support each other

In short, the whole team came together as one. We all had our worries about the virus, and we had to support each other emotionally to be able to help our residents.

But we did. Some of the team had overnight bags in their cars, in case there was a point where we needed to be available to stay for extended periods, and we talked about the logistics of locking down for days at a time with staff living in the service short term.

The team pulled together transport wise, creating a rota for those needing to be picked up and dropped home, either with each other or with the employed drivers.

How we've been keeping everyone busy

My colleagues Michael and Linda, meanwhile, kept on working hard to keep residents and families in touch with each other and keep our residents entertained throughout lockdown.

Regular facetime/skype calls, coming up with different activities and games, things like a staff treasure hunt with silly pictures of everyone dotted around the home and grounds to find! We made videos and did gardening and crafts to keep everyone busy.

We’ve had lockdown birthdays and no end of treats. We’ve had Easter eggs, cakes, chocolates, smoothies, flowers, and knitted protectors to stop our ears being irritated by facemasks – all donated by local people and companies (food, in particular, is the way to a care team’s heart!)

Social care is vital

When we had our first resident with possible symptoms, we adopted full barrier care with seven-day isolation. To reassure the team, it was myself and the service manager Marcus who attended to his care for the first day. I would not ask anyone to do something I wouldn’t do myself. Thankfully, it turned out to be nothing serious, but it indeed reiterated the seriousness of the situation.

Each week we brought residents outside for the ‘clap for carers’, with locals standing in the drive at a distance. Fire engines and paramedics joined us several times. It’s an amazing, emotional thing to see the appreciation and support for all essential workers.

For so many years, people who work in care services have not been considered necessary, but the last few months have proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the work we do is vital.

Our team have gone above and beyond

I do believe it takes a special kind of person to dedicate themselves so entirely to the welfare of others. In a time when most people want to shut themselves away and stay safe at home, our whole team has gone way above and beyond to care for our residents. I could not be more proud of them all, for what they’ve done during what I can only call the most challenging situation of my 30-year career.

Hopefully, we are nearing a time when things can return to the ‘new’ normal, and we can start to welcome families back. We’ll have tissues ready. It has been an unprecedented and tragic time for the whole world, but seeing the kind and caring nature of people restores your faith.

Most of all, it’s shown me that every person I work with is a hero.

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