Where next for residents in care homes?
A lot was packed into an hour as about 25 people came together in the FaithAction 'Coffee House' online this morning to talk about how the pandemic has affected those in residential care and their staff.
First panelist to speak was London-based director of Embracing Age and Care Home Friends, Tina English. She gave details of her vision for one in every three of the country's 50,000 churches to adopt a care home – that way every single home in the UK could have volunteer visitors.
As well as projects to keep people connected through get free tablets and voice-assisted technology like Alexas in homes, she detailed new ideas like a fun one to help people 'Knit an Aquarium', and 'Pictures of Joy' (an idea devised by care staff themselves) to laminate inspiring pictures carrying a phrase or saying to use as conversation starters, particularly with people living with dementia.
Also on the panel was Raphi Bloom, fundraising and marketing director of The Fed, Jewish care home group in Greater Manchester. He said it was exactly a year since their home Heathfields locked down two weeks ahead of the rest of the country. Twenty-four residents have lost their lives to Covid-19 in the last year. He also spoke of the impact on people's mental well-being as a result of a ban on visitors and the 550 volunteers at the Fed. 'The mental toll from lockdown was just as impactful as the physical aspect of it was,' he said.
However, on a brighter note, Bloom pointed to the numbers of residents who had made a full recovery from Covid-19, saying this was an aspect of the care home sector which wasn't always as much highlighted as it should be. He described staff as 'heroes, and I don't say that lightly', he added. Out of 350 staff, 90 developed the virus themselves and more than 200 staff had to isolate at one point or another during this health crisis. Staff numbers having the vaccine have been high – 270 of them to date.
Volunteers had switched from activities in the homes to taking people to hospital and doing shopping for the housebound, among other tasks. The Fed supports 29 holocaust survivors as well as cases of people in financial difficulties, or experiencing domestic and other types of abuse. Manchester is the second largest Jewish community outside the capital and despite what some think, he said, many of their community were not affluent and experienced hardship. He said synagogues, churches and mosques across Britain should be proud of the large amount they had done to come to people's aid throughout the pandemic.
Anna Chaplaincy was also highlighted through Debbie Thrower's summary of the ways the movement had adapted since last March, and all the panel fielded questions from participants around topics such as: the funding of care homes; how soon volunteers would be allowed back in significant numbers; the loneliness of care home residents and those in sheltered complexes who had spent so much time alone; and the question mark over how many more care homes might close because Covid deaths had made smaller ones no longer financially viable.