Lesley Gamm, Service Manager at Leonard Cheshire’s Gloucestershire House care home, on beating the pandemic blues
I’m not going to deny it- it was really hard going into the third lockdown. Like all Service Managers, I want to support the people that live here, their families and my staff to get through this pandemic. It has been so hard not having visitors since Christmas. Last Summer we’d opened up and had people in the gym and our activities room. We had socially distanced events, and our drivers were getting individuals out to the community. Then it all changed again!
So, when the world outside is grim, planning something unusual can help. Many people here have just finished cycling the Great Wall of China! We did this using adapted bikes round our immediate area in Cheltenham and static bikes in our home. Before the pandemic, many people took part in the Leonard Cheshire run Gloucestershire ‘Wheels for All’ inclusive cycling scheme at nearby sports tracks and in the beautiful Forest of Dean. It’s been great to find new ways to keep that passion alive during lockdown rather than just putting it on hold. For those that were cycling on static bikes, a virtual link up with other cyclists was a gamechanger. We’re getting Great Wall of China t-shirts for all the people that got involved.
What else has helped? Well, everyone is seeing their loved ones during lockdown more than even before the pandemic. With family support we make sure people have access to a Smart TV or iPad. They are talking to people every day. This technology helps us keep the precious relationship between volunteers and people living here going as well.
One thing that really mattered to me was keeping our community links, not just for us, but to help people in Supported Living or those living alone. We make sure we offer people activity options where they could connect to our community, such as online dance sessions that everyone round here is doing.
The main skill I learnt during this period was how to keep doing what we usually do in a different way. That’s better than cancelling everything. We continued Covid-safe cooking activities. Even when we had a Covid case, we made sure that person still saw their usual therapy team members. Normally at Christmas we all go out for a big meal. This year everyone ordered their favourite foods and enjoyed them with the other people in their ‘household bubble’. We had games and music. There wasn’t anything extraordinary about that, but it made things feel a bit normal.
As you’d expect, the staff are tired, but they’re doing an amazing job. They’re working as a team, helping each other and longing for this to be over. We all know it’s hard-going working in PPE. I want to boost their morale and I’m also always thinking: “we’ve got to keep staffing levels up to keep people safe”. Something I’ve learnt is never underestimate how much feeling appreciated matters during a crisis. It’s not rocket science; treating staff to pizza or buying chocolate brownies. I’ve also nominated the team for the Team Award in the Great British Care Awards, South West region.
As an organisation, Leonard Cheshire is writing to relatives, but I send my own personal letters too. It’s an extra touch that is needed during times like this. Our families are wonderful; so supportive and understanding of the restrictions we have had to follow.
In December 2019 we were given an overall ‘Outstanding’ by the CQC, but we never had chance to celebrate it. I’m looking forward to when we can safely have a celebratory party with everyone. This period has taught me how much it matters to have everyone with connections to our home come together.