Lockdown Learnings

Featured article - 17 December 2020
By Pamela Holmes, Care Home Friends and Neighbours, North West London

Pamela Holmes, Care Home Friends and Neighbours, North West London

‘What are you proud of?’ Gathering best practice is one way in which we, in the care sector, learn from each other. What’s worked well in one care home is worth trying in another similar setting. When the pandemic struck earlier this year, it provided a unique opportunity to learn from care home staff coping with extraordinary demands in a turbulent situation – and for others to learn from those experiences. One of the outcomes was ‘Lockdown Learnings’ – an interactive mind map of ideas that care staff said they’d found helpful.

Between July and September this year, My Home Life England interviewed twelve participants of the Care Home Friends and Neighbours (FaNs) North West London project online. These care home managers and activity coordinators, participants of a two-year Mercer’s Company-funded project to strengthen engagement with the community, were asked to reflect on what had happened during the Covid-19 pandemic when care home doors closed. To think about ‘what they could be proud of’ and what had worked well.

Stronger bonded teams

The interviews were fascinating, moving and enlightening. Interviewees spoke of their enhanced role in end of life care and the toll it could take on mental and physical health. They talked passionately of the stronger bonded teams that emerged during the pandemic; staff working beyond their roles, driven to support to residents as well as each other. Colleagues gaining confidence in leadership and a real sense of sharing skills and pulling together.

They took comfort and strength from connections with local communities. "We have been overwhelmed with support. From people who have never been to the home. Letters and cards saying they’ve been appreciated. People walking up to… (staff) and clapping".

They talked about staff rising to the challenge of learning new skills and working with ingenuity and creativity to keep residents and relatives connected: "We had garden visits. 80 video links per day, taking the I-pad into the room. Different conversations – families did translations so we didn’t have to use Google Translate". And: "We pulled together as a family to prevent relatives worrying".

Reflecting on these interviews, we developed Lockdown Learnings. Responding to participants’ request for a practical at-a-glance resource that could be pinned on a wall or left on the staff coffee table, Lockdown Learnings is a ‘mind map’ of suggestions and links. Suggestions such as asking staff teams what they felt worked well in the first lockdown. Identifying trusted sources of guidelines and knowing who to contact if there are shortages. Developing relationships with local teams which can give advice. Links such as the My Home Life Bulletin No 6 ‘Dying, the last taboo’ and Saying Goodbye.

Lockdown Learnings is simple, practical and built around the great practice care home leaders have put in place.

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