The UK Government hit its deadline this week in the Covid-19 vaccine roll-out to the top four priority groups – including care homes. Christian charity Pilgrims’ Friend Society says the programme has brought hope for a better and brighter future for its care home staff, residents and relatives. However, staff testing, PPE and non-contact visiting all still play a vital role in the overall safety and wellbeing of those in the homes.
Vic Stone, Pilgrims’ Friend Society Operations Manager and Coronavirus Lead says,
“The completed roll-out of the vaccination across our homes a few weeks ago has brought a sense of hope, as well as relief and excitement at the prospect of returning to some normality by year end. There’s light at the end of this long and extremely difficult tunnel where we have had to continue normal operations, while also managing PPE, stringent hygiene measures, staff shortages, testing and socially distanced visits – all under regular and rapid guidance changes. When I think of all that our care home managers have achieved with their staff – leaning on the grace of God and drawing strength from their own faith as well as that of our residents – I’m amazed and truly thankful for all their hard work.”
Pilgrims’ Friend Society recognises that until the vaccine has been rolled out extensively, the use of PPE and testing staff three times a week will need to continue, along with other safety precautions and screened visits. Last week a coalition of organisations and NGO’s called on the Government to urgently re-open care homes to allow visits between residents and their essential caregivers.
“We completely agree that visits are essential. Where possible during this lockdown, as before, relatives can book a regular slot each week for meaningful, non-contact visits indoors. This is done in-line with the latest Government guidance and careful risk assessments. It supports the wellbeing of our residents, who enjoy seeing their loved ones face-to-face, even if they can’t yet have physical contact. Just knowing they are having a visit really brightens their day. We really feel for those relatives who haven’t been able to see their loved one in person, so we’re making sure they stay connected via online visits, Facebook updates and card and letter writing. Our residents have been really encouraged by local school children sending letters and they have responding back too.”
Pilgrims’ Friend Society is rooted in the Christian faith and is committed to ensuring that the physical, emotional, spiritual and mental needs of each resident is met. Regular volunteers, who are treated like members of staff and tested accordingly, have visited some homes to lead devotions with residents. For End of Life care, a vicar wearing PPE has also been able to come in order to share a prayer and Bible passages to bring comfort to the residents and their families.
As Boris Johnson plans to detail his roadmap next week on how lockdown restrictions might ease, the charity says timely guidance on visiting, PPE funding and even hairdressing would be welcomed – allowing enough time to properly prepare.
“We hope the roadmap will include timely guidance for care homes, so we can be as prepared as possible. Since the pandemic began, we’ve often received guidance the night before the changes are due to be implemented, or on a Friday for a Monday roll-out. This understandably creates an immediate expectation among relatives for changes, when in reality we need more time to put the necessary procedures in place. We also would welcome news on the Infection Control Fund, which helps facilitate things like safe indoor visits, as this is due to run out in March. And finally, we hope to hear news on when we can look forward to hairdressers and other volunteers returning, as these are both great morale boosters for residents.”
To find out more about Pilgrims’ Friend Society go to https://www.pilgrimsfriend.org.uk/ or follow them on social media.