An Aberdeen care home manager has praised her “tireless” staff for their efforts supporting residents during the pandemic.
Rubislaw Park was one of many facilities across Scotland directly affected by the spread of coronavirus.
At the height of the pandemic, staff were working near-12-hour shifts in full PPE, and double-cleaning surfaces every two hours among other strict procedures to keep residents safe.
And as the people they were caring for all had to self-isolate in their bedrooms, huge efforts were made to ensure they could still communicate with their loved ones.
The home has now received a “very good” grade from the Care Inspectorate in recognition of its work.
‘Busy, hard and trying time’
At the height of the pandemic, manager Gayle Bain recalled care home staff throughout the sector feeling as though they were “public enemy number one”.
Facilities were all locked down to protect residents, meaning few people could see how they were operating.
She said: “We had to subdivide the home and put in place a further lockdown plan – all our units were completely quarantined from the other.
“And that even involved the laundry trolleys and kitchen trolleys, even the lifts were segregated.
“During that time we were scrutinised regularly by public health, and we’d have partnership meetings where they’d send representatives into the home to make sure everything was safe.
“You’d clean all your hard surfaces and high-touch areas, and there was double-cleaning of every single surface by every member of staff, every two hours.
“They’d stop everything they were doing and everything would be cleaned.
“You had the residents’ needs for activities and daily living as well so it was very busy and hard, trying time for the staff – especially given the fact they were wearing full PPE for almost 12 hours a day.”
Communication proved key
Gayle began sending daily updates to the relatives of her residents, letting them know everything that had been happening within the home.
They also invested in IT equipment to keep people connected online with video calls.
“Some of the residents that lived downstairs in the home could maybe still see a loved one through a window, but for a while even that was restricted,” she said.
“Our response to Covid was the communication and, from the moment we had a confirmed case, I was fastidious in telling all the relatives there with a daily communication.
“It’s about building relationships so residents and relatives feel a confidence in the service, and that you’re doing the right thing
“They were the silent ones on the outside that couldn’t get in and see what was going on, so there was lots of thinking outside the box.”
While coronavirus measures across the country are beginning to lift, the care home is still remaining very cautious.
But efforts are continuing to ensure residents have a good quality of life, and can take part in hobbies and activities they enjoyed in earlier life.
This has even included the establishment of a dementia choir – strictly risk assessed down to the individual songs they can perform, to cut down on potential Covid transmission from spitting.
Gayle said: “We are looking at things we can do to support and give back some normality.
“And it’s been about what is meaningful, not just for the residents, but their relatives coming back into the care home.”
High praise for staff
Gayle says staff at Rubislaw Park have worked with “absolute professionalism” during the pandemic – and is pleased they have received recognition for their efforts.
A Care Inspectorate visit earlier this month graded them “very good” – the equivalent of five points out of six – regarding their support of people’s wellbeing.
Inspectors praised management and employees for their “pro-active and improvement-focused” mindset and “well-established” relationships with families and community organisations.
“This shows the resilience, patience and empathy everyone has demonstrated,” Gayle added.
“You can get by if it’s a short lived thing – one or two months – but we’re more than a year down the line.
“So to get the positivity for what we have done supporting residents through a really difficult time, I’m just blown away.
“The staff have worked tirelessly and there have been times we’ve worked without days off just to make sure the home is safe.
“We’re all supporting each other and not to get that inspection and the grades is fantastic and I’m really proud of the team for that.”