The heroic efforts of frontline home care workers during Covid-19 are widely recognised, but those working behind the scenes to ensure Ireland’s older people receive uninterrupted, quality services have played an equally important role.
Maura O’Shea, Home Care Consultant at Home Instead Senior Care Kildare, liaises with families, clients, health care professionals and Home Instead’s care delivery team to ensure clients receive excellent care.
Naturally, face-to-face communication has been an important part of her job, and she and the rest of the care delivery team has relied on a strong back office team.
So how did that work when Covid-19 forced people to limit interaction to protect public health? Technology, planning and enhanced care management systems all helped, says Maura.
“The onset of Covid-19 impacted our office in a number of ways.
“Although we had a certain amount of preparedness thanks to an early staff meeting outlining a number of possible scenarios, our office presence was scaled back in mid-March, with only a few remaining staff to man phones and manage PPE,” Maura explains.
“All other staff including care managers and most of the care co-ordination team adopted a work-from-home arrangement. Initially, the landscape was challenging as staff attempted to make sense of the ‘new normal’ and plan for various contingencies.
“But the fact that we had planned for these contingencies meant that we were well-equipped to deal with practically any situation and this paid huge dividends as the crisis went on,” she adds.
As part of her job, Maura develops close relationships with family members and health professionals such as Public Health Nurses who refer clients to Home Instead and monitor care outcomes. She works closely with both, to create a care plan that meets the client’s care requirements, and she monitors the plan as the service continues. How did she manage to do this in a time where face-to-face meetings were limited?
“I’m attending a lot of initial calls via WhatsApp as many of our clients are cut off from family members residing overseas, and this time has been particularly challenging for them,” says Maura.
“Many families commute regularly from the UK and further afield in order to see their loved ones. But this has been limited recently, which has resulted in us taking on a more active role on behalf of the family.
“Social isolation appears to have resulted in a surge of anxiety, depression and other mental health-related problems and it is acutely apparent within the community at present. But technology has been pivotal in this regard and social media, in particular via video, has certainly helped us to counteract this by facilitating calls with family members.
“Whilst I continue to visit some clients at home - taking all necessary precautions - I’m not carrying out face-to-face meetings with Public Health Nurses, GPs and other health care professionals who are involved in client care.
“I have found video calls and phone calls just as efficient in discussing referred client needs, and we’ve managed to set up solid care plans on the back of them.
“Of course I do miss the one-to-one contact with the various people I work with. But we don’t yet know if or when we will be able to go back to face-to-face meetings. So in the meantime, let’s embrace the concept of virtual meetings - the technology can ensure we can do the best for our clients, which is the most important thing!,” says Maura.