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Care in a pandemic: How home care workers are rising to the challenge of Covid-19

Jul 08, 2020

Covid-19 has affected every single person in this country, from the toddler unable to go to crèche right up to the 90-year-old pensioner who has been asked to cocoon at home. We have all felt its effect in some way.

There’s no denying that this pandemic has presented plenty of challenges, but as a nation we have found ways to rise and meet them. One sector that has had to evolve completely during this crisis is the home care industry.

Home care refers to care professionals who come into the home to help older people (or people with additional needs) to go about their day-to-day tasks. Their work is varied and often, invaluable. However, they have had to adapt and change as a result of Covid-19.

A rapidly changing situation

One of the biggest challenges facing the home care sector was how quickly the situation around Covid-19 was changing. Within the space of a few days, the situation went from being a looming threat to a full-blown pandemic.

“At the outset, Covid-19 was a fast-changing, unpredictable situation,” explains Danette Connolly, National Clinical Lead at Home Instead Senior Care. “We have 25 local offices in Ireland, delivering care to 6,000 older people, many of whom would be regarded as being ‘highly vulnerable’ to this virus.”

Like many home care providers, they quickly had to adjust to this new reality.

“At both national and local level, we urgently needed to support and equip our office teams and our frontline care workers with the information and knowledge they needed to continue to deliver essential care services to older people in the community,” she explains.

“At the same time, we needed to reassure our clients and their families that we had matters in hand and were following every recommendation from the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET), the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) and the Health Service Executive as they became available.”

Providing reassurance

Covid-19 has been a worrying time both for those cocooning at home and their families. Home care providers have had to work alongside communities in order to provide reassurance and expert care. Often, this meant spending more time than usual on communications.

“There was understandable concern among families who had decided to cancel services, given the fear of the unknown,” Danette explains. “In addition, more family members were available to help, as they were now either working from home or had unfortunately been unable to work.”

“Nevertheless, our local offices engaged in regular communications with clients and families to reassure them of the measures, precautions and additional frontline training that we had in place to help keep older people safe at home.”

New safety measures

Of course, a top priority for the home care sector as a whole was safety. As older people are more likely to become seriously ill as a result of Covid-19, they had to be extra vigilant.

“We provided CAREGivers with regular training updates on the safety precautions they needed to take to protect clients from the virus and reduce any risk of transmission,” Danette explains. “We did this on an evolving basis, through our Home Instead Senior Care Academy.”

The Academy – which Danette runs and had recently launched – allowed Home Instead to rapidly train CAREGivers on the correct and effective use of Personal Protective Equipment that resulted from the pandemic.

“The term ‘PPE’ has gained household recognition in the past few months,” states Danette.

“But it’s a familiar one to those of us in home care, who used it on a case-by-case basis every day prior to this crisis. There was a lot of confusion over when, where and how PPE should be used in general, and a lot of controversy over its use among home care workers.

“PPE needs to be used only when necessary, and as the recommendations changed for the home care sector, we secured our stocks, through a combination of supplies from the HSE and those sourced by ourselves.

“We added to our training programme, bolstering standard precautions such as hand-washing, glove use, apron use and other infection control techniques, with new requirements, such as masks and protocols for times when CAREGivers are not able to maintain social distancing and are spending more than 15 minutes with a client.”

Continued trust

These measures have quickly restored trust and confidence among many clients who, when faced with an unprecedented health crisis, had decided to postpone their care services.

“Ultimately we’ve shown our complete dedication to our clients and our frontline staff throughout this crisis, by bringing in every necessary measure to protect their wellbeing, while continuing to deliver the quality of care that we’re renowned for,” says Danette.

“We’re delighted to see so many clients recognising these actions, and renew their services with us. We’ve recently seen more and more people get in touch with us to discuss care options, such as live-in care, as the overall care landscape changes.”

Home Instead Senior Care has 25 local offices around Ireland, delivering relationship-based care to private clients and people in receipt of Home Support Services. All Home Instead care plans are managed by a local Care Manager. Learn more and book a free, no-obligation care consultation today.

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