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Lockdown: A Residential Care Home Manager’s Experience

24th June 2020

It was an incredibly challenging for many when the country went into lockdown just over three months ago, even more so for our frontline workers who had to leave the safety of their own homes to provide support to the many vulnerable people living in our care homes. As a twenty-four-hour care and support provider our residential home managers and staff had an enormous challenge on their hands during this time supporting autistic adults, whose rituals, special interests and daily structure had been severely disrupted.

We spoke to Rebecca Ebanks – Assistant Manager at Upper Ford Lodge, Worcestershire and Neil Draper – Registered Operations Manager at Gorse Farm in Solihull to find out what it was like to manage a residential care home during the lockdown period.

Rebecca, Upper Ford Lodge

The daily routine for the people we support at Upper Ford Lodge changed drastically when the country went into lockdown. We went from a full and busy activity planner to nothing in the space of a day. We had to help our residents form new routines, we scheduled in local drives in the car for everyone who wanted to go – this has been a big success in developing a new routine.

Our support staff stepped up to the challenge in the early weeks of lockdown. We worked together to make the processes smooth, from when the people we support woke up, until when they went to bed.  Our managerial role was impacted in the sense that we had to lead a fantastic group of support workers through this ever changing and worrying time – they have needed reassurance and a listening ear often.

The main challenges have been not seeing family. Or not being able to go to the shop or do their usual activities for example. However, after the first month of lockdown, this seems to have eased as the people we care for have become more comfortable with the new normal. To make sure people feel connected we have used Zoom/Skype, phone calls, pictures, we have also directed families to the Autism West Midlands website and social media as sometimes their family member will pop up on there. During the first few weeks we also set up a shop in our shed as the people we support were missing visiting the real thing. Our team at Upper Ford Lodge have done a great job at keeping everyone occupied. Craft activities, games, puzzles, we are hoping to have a socially distanced mini festival soon!

We are wearing PPE – aprons, masks, gloves, visors in our daily work. We have been fortunate to have this available in our services because supplies of PPE have been very difficult to get hold of especially early on in the pandemic. A local college very kindly made 20 visors for us in the first days of the UK pandemic.  

From day one, we’ve had staff off due to shielding. This means that we’ve had several full time posts to fill. Remaining staff have stepped forward to pick up shifts. Their rotas have been changed, some working long days, extra days and some have even worked night shifts. This has often been at late notice. It has been a worrying time for staff, and they have still attended work to look after our residents. Making sure that shifts have been staffed by familiar, reassuring faces who know the people we support well, has been key to our success so far. The whole team have been amazing!!

One of the biggest challenges for those who live at Gorse Farm was not being able to see family members and understanding the reasons why, this really impacted on the lives of those we support who were used to seeing their family members on a regular basis and couldn’t understand the reasons behind the changes. We found that the use of letters, telephone calls and video calls really helped when keeping in touch with loved ones, I also made sure that families received regular updates as understandably this was just as hard for them.  

As restrictions were placed on daily routines such as visiting shops and participating in community activities the team at Gorse Farm came together collectively thinking of new ideas and providing amazing support for the people we care for. During the first few weeks we held a social distanced disco, and throughout the lockdown we have been involved in lots of cooking and baking, arts and crafts and BBQ’s when the weather is on our side! Although there have been lots of challenges, we cannot believe the positive impacts which include some of our people responding really well, the predictability faced with remaining within their home helped some people.

Our staff have worked tirelessly to make sure that everyone is safe and happy, they have pulled together and helped by covering shifts and taking up additional tasks like shopping for the home during their free time. They have done brilliantly.

A Social Care Manager
Neil, Gorse Farm

“Autism West Midlands support staff care for some of the most vulnerable and challenging autistic adults in the West Midlands and have been unfailing in their dedication, bravery and hard work… We think they are fantastic!”.

Operations Director – Carol Knowles

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