Coronavirus and the Care System

A bit of information from one of the MHFA Wales team around her work with vulnerable people and how that has been impacted during the current situation. This may be of interest for those of you who have loved ones in residential care at the moment.

Hi everyone, my name is Clare and I am a Relevant Persons Representative. That’s a bit of a mouthful really, isn’t it?

What that actually means is that I am an advocate. I help people living in residential or nursing homes when it has been decided they are unable to make decisions about where they should live, and how it is best they should be cared for.

My usual working week would involve me visiting lots of care homes around South Wales: finding out how the people I represent are doing, reading care plans and other records.

Sometimes when someone is particularly unhappy in their home or things aren’t as they should be their case could be taken to the Court of Protection, so I might have to write reports, or discuss things with solicitors. I therefore have to make sure I am up to date with legislation such as the Mental Capacity Act and the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards – which might sound like way too much to think about, but they’re very important pieces of legislation that help keep people safe and their rights upheld!

I think my job is really interesting – my partner just thinks I spend my day having cups of tea and chats with people but there is more to it – I promise.

My job is to try to make the situations of the people I represent the very best they can be for them. This could be asking if things can be done in a different less restrictive way and making sure that what is being done is in line with legislation and best practise. It could also be by making sure carers or other professionals know what is important to the resident – for example: if someone always used to watch the football on a Friday night and that was something he always enjoyed, but now that isn’t happening since he’s moved into residential care, my job would be to ask why and try to see if that could be facilitated.

So while on the face of it, it might look like I spend my days having a chat and asking people lots of questions – underneath that there are reasons behind all I do and what I ask.

And then the coronavirus pandemic happened!

Suddenly, for the safety and protection of all resident’s, care homes started adopting a cocooning policy which stopped all visitors. This didn’t all happen at once; it probably took about a week for all homes to be closed and then work as we knew it totally changed.

What about the residents I have been visiting? How are they going to cope with these changes? It seemed with every passing day there were more and more changes to daily life, which I struggled to comprehend, but how would my clients, often very elderly residents with dementia, or other types of diagnosis which would impact their cognitive ability, manage with these changes?

Alongside this, there was the uncertainty of my job – how will it be able to continue when I can’t visit care homes?

And then personally – With my children’s school and nurseries closing how would I juggle doing my work and looking after my children? The financial implications of work for not only myself but also my partner being at risk? It was a very stressful time.

Friday 20th March was the day it feels we said goodbye to our old life.

All of us.

Together!

How would that work?

So now we are a couple of weeks into our new life. It is still a bit of a juggle trying to balance between my work, my husband’s work, and activities for my two daughters but also time to actually embrace and enjoy this time we have been forced to have together.

As to my work, well, that continues but in a very different way.

Obviously, I am unable to go to visit care homes now, however I am in regular contact as best I can with my clients using phone and video calling facilities.

Mostly, up until now, the residents I support have had some significant changes to their daily life and routines. No family visitors has obviously had a huge impact on people, and now my job is to try and see how that is managed and lessened the damage as much as possible.

There are also a few of my clients who particularly stand out for me who I worry about more than others. Some had been working towards more independence with lots of community access and activities which has now obviously stopped, and I am worried the longer term impacts this will have on them, especially as residents in care homes are likely to be subjected to these restrictions for the longest time as they are most vulnerable to this coronavirus.

So now, in some ways my job carries more importance than ever before, supporting people to receive the best care, in the least restrictive way whilst maintaining their safety. It’s quite a challenge I am sure you’ll agree, but one that I, and others in the same role will do our best to take on during these very strange times, we find ourselves in.