Protecting our elderly this winter

We take a look at some of the questions care homes and community care providers should be asking themselves as winter approaches.

 We all witnessed the heart-rending issues with care homes at the height of the coronavirus pandemic last Spring, when lives were lost because the virus rapidly spread through the particularly vulnerable residents of such facilities.

Of course, hindsight is a powerful thing and we’re learning more about the coronavirus every day, but we now know that allowing people with COVID-19 back into care homes up and down the country, cost lives.

We work with numerous residential homes and have witnessed the fantastic work their teams have done, since, to protect their people from such a risk in the future. Not only that, but we’ve all seen the examples of true heroism on the TV, where staff have moved away from their own families and in with their elderly residents to try to shield them from the risks posed by this awful virus.

While much of our focus, as a nation, has been on our amazing NHS workers, those who look after our most vulnerable people in care facilities are in many ways the unsung heroes of the situation.

As we advance rapidly through the Autumn, and with the daily rise in cases the focus of news reports, it’s time to sense check preparations and ensure that all possible provisions have been made for a potential winter spike in cases, to prevent any re-run of what happened earlier this year.

Our belief is that everyone should, from now, start behaving as though we were in the middle of renewed outbreak, to give us a renewed sense of vigilance and urgency around the measures we all need to be taking.

Here is our take on some of the questions anyone running or working in a care home – or indeed a team responsible for making at-home care visits – should be asking themselves, right now.

10 questions for carers to ask themselves as winter approaches

  1. Are you and your colleagues confident in your COVID-19 risk assessment or would it benefit from a sense check to make sure it’s still relevant in light of events and learnings since the Spring?
  2. Are your processes for everything from cleaning to meal provision watertight, or would they also benefit from a review?
  3. Are your team clear on your standards and the role they play in upholding them? For example, do they fully understand their responsibilities for maintaining the highest possible standards of behaviour and hygiene, both at home, at work and when they are socialising in their own time?
  4. Do your cleaning approaches rule out the risk of cross-contamination – for example, are you ensuring that your cleaners have access to disposable mops, cloths, aprons and gloves and change these each time they go from one resident’s room to the next? It’s worth also reviewing your cleaning chemicals, to ensure you have all the right antiviral options in place to kill off coronavirus germs within the minimum possible contact time.
  5. How are you serving meals? Are your team wearing the appropriate personal protective equipment when preparing and serving food, and are you making full use of things like disposable or pre-pouched cutlery items and condiments to minimise the risk of people passing germs between one another?
  6. Have you considered setting up bubbles with five or six residents in each, who only meet in designated areas, to try to limit the potential spread of the illness around your premises, while allowing people the social contact which is so important?
  7. Have you reviewed your visitor policy, from all angles? For example, on the one hand it’s important to limit visitors – both family and external contractors – to protect against COVID, but of course this needs to be balanced against the wellbeing aspect of ensuring people have access, where possible, to see their loved ones. Creativity can win through here, with the use of screens to allow people to interact with their loved ones in a safe way. While the TV news has featured some elaborate examples that might be beyond the budgets of many homes, there are more cost-effective options available as well and we are happy to look at sourcing these for you, should you want to go down this route
  8. Have you considered your supply of personal protective equipment, and made appropriate provision for the winter months? One of the issues we saw, earlier in the year, was that demand for PPE soared as the Government diverted much-needed supplies into the NHS. We battled to re-instate our supply chains and have managed to keep everyone covered since then. However, to avoid any supply issues should cases rise further over the winter, we would urge you to make contingency plans and set up a regular order to ensure you have plenty in the pipeline for the winter. The decisions you take now could prevent you firefighting in the weeks and months ahead
  9. What provisions have you put in place to regularly check the wellness of both your staff and residents? For example, do your team know what symptoms to look out for themselves and among their contacts, and are you making full use of the track and trace and testing systems the Government have put in place? There are other, preventative measures you can consider, for example temperature testing staff and visitors on a daily basis on entering your premises, as an extra layer of protection. Digital forehead, ‘non-contact’ thermometers are a great, easy way of doing this that takes just seconds to do but can provide you with much-needed peace of mind.
  10. Lastly, are you communicating as fully with everyone involved as you should? This is another, important weapon for the fight against COVID-19. Make sure you leave nothing unsaid when it comes to making everyone you deal with aware of what’s expected of them and how they can play their part. And don’t forget to listen, too – everyone has ideas and, when it comes to fighting something as tricky as this, providing a forum for them to share their thoughts is important as well. If everyone feels part of the process of coming up with ideas and solutions, you’ll be in a much stronger position to succeed in this battle.

If you’re involved in providing elderly care, either in a home or out in the community, and could do with a helping hand to prepare for the months ahead, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us via or 01482 327580.

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