During the current pandemic, we like many other care homes and organisations have faced restrictions on visitors, which has led to having to put in place measures to keep our residents and staff as safe as possible. While we hope that these will not be needed for too much longer, we are required to keep using these until the number of diagnosed cases starts decreasing substantially, and the pandemic is ‘officially’ over.
What measures do we have in place?
Early on in 2020, we made the decision to close the doors of our home, in order to keep everyone safe. While this was not an easy decision for us to make, we wanted to limit the potential number of infection risks as much as possible, until such time as a safe visiting method could be put in place.
We have had all our staff testing regularly since then, using both Lateral Flow Tests (LFTs) and Polymerase Chain Reaction Tests (PCRs), and anyone with positive test results was immediately quarantined and removed from the home, until such time as their results came back negative and they were safe to return to work.
We also regularly administered tests to our residents, and if and when we had any positive results, we moved them to one area of the home, to keep any and all cases limited to a small area.
Changes in visiting arrangements
After a few months from the initial lockdown of our home, guidance was released that allowed for visits in care homes, as long as infection prevention measures were put in place. This is when we put together a ‘Covid visiting room’, which had several things in place to reduce risks of virus transmission, including hands-free intercom systems, a physical plexiglass barrier across the room, and stringent PPE, handwashing and sanitisation protocols for all those visiting. We also limited both the numbers of visitors for each individual resident, as well as the number of total visitors in the building, to ensure all those coming in could maintain a safe distance and be guided in and out of the building with a minimum of contact.
Visitors were also required to complete an LFT in a secure area of the home before proceeding to their visit, and anyone testing positive could then be asked to leave quickly and safely, should it be needed.
It was also during this time that we put together an online booking system for visits, to better organise and streamline families arranging to come and see their loved ones, and this remains in place today. The system allows us to ask certain questions relating to visitor’s health and vaccination status, which meant we could reduce the time within the home to what was absolutely necessary.
We have been actively monitoring both official guidance relating to the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as the news, to help us keep up-to-date with our procedures, and this remains an understandably high priority. More recent changes have included the nomination of named visitors for each resident, to limit those coming in and out of the home, and the introduction of visits outside of our ‘Covid room’, including communal lounges, garden visits (weather-permitting), and even outside visits, all the while keeping social distancing, PPE and infection prevention measures in mind for all those involved.
Visitors are still required to demonstrate a negative LFT before being admitted into the home, but these can now be completed at home a short time before the visit, to again reduce the time spent in the home. We have also looked into more permanent structures for visits, so that families can enjoy some privacy, but also limit contact with others, so we have constructed a ‘visiting pod’ in an outside area that can be accessed without needing direct access to the home, and the hope is that once the pandemic has passed, these can be repurposed for other things, such as activities or events.
As well as the procedures in place for family visits, we have also been required to ensure all contractors and suppliers coming into our homes are as low a risk as possible. A new law came into effect on 11 th November 2021, which required all those coming into the home for work purposes to be able to demonstrate that they have received at least 2 vaccinations, and without these, entry would not be permitted. To this end, we contacted all of our regular contractors, and required them to supply proof of this, which we now hold on file for visits as and when they occur. By doing this, we can ensure that any essential visits that take place relating to the upkeep of our premises, equipment or services are as safe as possible.
We obviously cannot predict any future changes, or how the pandemic will continue to affect us all in the future, but we are fully committed to keeping up-to-date with any guidance and recommendations made to us, and keeping our residents, staff and visitors as safe as possible. Our social media pages are often used to quickly disseminate information to our families, as well as email updates when needed, so please keep an eye out for these so that we can all do our part in reducing cases and keeping everyone safe.