Transcript: Rashielee Care Home: Covid-19 response

An interview with Jennifer Carruthers, Deputy Manager of the care home.

Podcast Episode: Rashielee Care Home: Covid-19 response



What follows is a transcription of the audio recording. Due to differences between spoken and written English, the transcript may contain quirks of grammar and syntax.

MD - Michelle Drumm
JC - Jennifer Carruthers

MD On 22 April 2020, Michelle from Iriss spoke to Jennifer Carruthers, Deputy Manager at Rashielee Care Home in Erskine. Jennifer tells us how both staff and residents are managing in the current circumstances and how they’ve had to change and adapt services to cope in the crisis.

MD Would you mind just starting off by telling me, Little Inch has a number of care homes with Little Inch Group. How many are there and what’s your role?

JC Yes, well there’s two care homes owned by Little Inch Limited, one called Inchinnan Care Home and the other one, which is this one, is Rashielee Care Home. So they’re not far from each other. I’m the deputy manager of the Rashielee Care Home, a year deputy manager here. Nearly a year.

MD Right. Okay, and Jennifer, are you actually staying at the care home at the moment?

JC So I moved into the care home two weeks ago Monday there due to one of our nurses, his wife took unwell and we were waiting for her to get tested for COVID. So he had to go off for the fourteen days to shield. It’s only myself and him that are the nurses during the day. When he’s nurse I’m deputy and when he’s off I’m the nurse. We’ve got quite a small team, very small tight team should I say. So when he went off on the Monday I moved into the care home, but he came back yesterday so I got to go back home on Monday night. So I was here for two weeks.

MD Oh right, okay. So you’re back at home now, which is excellent?

JC Yep.

MD What was it like having to stay at the care home? That must have been quite difficult?

JC Yeah. It’s the quickest two weeks of my life. It was an emotional rollercoaster. I think really it was just to be there to support staff and ensure that we gave the best care that we could give. When people were taking unwell during the night, myself and my manager took shots of doing, you know, the on-call for when we’re at home, but I think when I was staying here I felt better that I was here so that if there was anything happening during the night I could get up and assist them and they didn’t feel alone. Nightshift can be quite scary times when you’re the only nurse in the building.

MD Yeah, I can imagine that could be really, really lonely. How many residents are you currently supporting?

JC So at the moment we have - sorry, I’d to look there - thirty residents.

MD Okay, and are all of these residents currently well or are they suffering with COVID?

JC We still have ten that are being barrier nursed at the moment, with symptoms of COVID. So we have had six residents pass away, only two of which on their death certificate it has said suspected COVID, ‘cause there’s no tests being done so we will never know, and the other four have no mention of COVID on their certificates.

MD I’m really sorry to hear about those that have passed away. It’s really difficult right now.

JC Yeah, it’s bad.

MD Yeah.

JC Yeah.

MD And all the families that are affected as well as a result of that.

JC Yep.

MD Yeah.

JC Yeah, it’s been an emotional rollercoaster. It’s very emotional when our residents become unwell. It’s like we were not trained for this at all. You’re trained to be a nurse but we weren’t trained for this, how sudden people were becoming unwell, but then the families, just how devastated they are was horrific.

MD Mmmhmm, ‘cause I know it was only about what, two to three weeks ago that there was I think a Channel 4 piece about your care home, and I know that activities were sort of going on as normal?

JC Yep.

MD So there was quite a change the following week?

JC Yeah. Yep. That’s when people started becoming unwell, was around about just after the second piece, and as I say it’s just been two weeks of it’s been horrible, but we’ve been keeping morale up and the residents that have not been affected, they’re still happy and things are still going on, activities still getting on as much as we can do. The activities have been happening in their rooms, for some in the corridors, but we’re just doing our best to try and keep things as normal as possible.

MD Yeah, and what are the actual things that you’ve really had to do differently when this situation kicked off?

JC So we’ve had to change the way that we work. All of us have had to change, but we’re doing every role. My manager’s doing my role and she’s doing nurse role and she’s doing carer role. I’m having to do nurse role, care role. Everybody’s having to do every role. So it is harder. We’re having to work harder to make sure that the care we’re giving is the best care that they can have, the best care that we can give. We used to work in groups of seven. We had seven residents allocated to us in a day and that was our kind of key residents we’re looking after. We’ve changed it now to where we work on floors, and the reason we did that was because it was continuity of care with staff to minimise the risk of infection spread, so we were keeping certain staff to certain floors as much as we possibly could. Obviously the challenging part was the residents that live with dementia. We can’t tell them to stay in their room, and if they want to come out their room we couldn’t put them back in their room. So that was the most challenging aspect, was keeping them free from stress and distress.

MD Okay, and what are the sort of like activities you’ve had to do with the patients with dementia in order to keep them stress free?

JC Yep. So we’ve been doing arts and crafts. A lot of the community first of all donated in a lot of stuff to us, plus we had quite good activity stuff. So we made up wee packs for different rooms and the activities girl went around, and person-centred to that resident, so whether it be arts and crafts or going in and singing a wee song, doing crosswords, reading the papers, video calls to the families, out in the garden as well. Sometimes we took residents kind of out the wee fire door and into the garden, just one at a time, to let them get a wee bit of fresh air, and we found that that was really beneficial to their mood. The video calls are the main thing, seeing their families. We’ve been doing the video calls. That’s been a mega mood lifter for them.

MD Yeah, ‘cause I guess each resident will be impacted differently by this situation, and some will cope better than others?

JC Yeah. Yeah. Definitely.

MD And how has it impacted on staff? How are the staff feeling? How are you doing?

JC Yeah. Do you know, the one positive that I’ll ever take from this horrible experience is what it’s done to us as a team. It has brought us so close together. If you’d have asked me before this COVID about my team I would have told you we have a great team, we have a strong team, but wow. Everybody commented on how family and community-like this care home was, but even more so we are texting each other at night, we’ve got the group chat, everybody’s supporting each other. We’re having wobbles during the day. There’s certain staff that I’m surprised that they’re so upset because they’re normally so solid and just get on with the job, but no, everybody’s having these wee wobbles, and we’re just there to support each other, every single department. It’s amazing and it’s the only positive that I will take from this.

MD Okay. Yeah, I’ve been hearing quite a bit about the deeper relationships, stronger relationships, that are being built between staff and also I guess people they’re supporting, and that is uplifting to hear well at least there is something good to come out of it.

JC Yeah, definitely.

MD What is the PPE situation for you guys?

JC Yeah, so we’re okay. At the start we had a bit of a rocky road. We couldn’t get a hold of our PPE that we were meant to get. We got a lot of community donations. We have never been without PPE, but it was community donations and men were coming and dropping their vans at the front door, opening their back doors, giving us all their masks. We were never ever short of gloves and aprons anyway. That’s all provided by our director and we did try and source masks but we couldn’t get deliveries from anywhere. They were gold dust. So as I say, we did get them from the community, but then we did start to get our delivery from the government, which was your two boxes of masks, gloves, but they don’t last. We were going through thirty, forty masks a day. So we have really had to rely on the community donations for the masks.

MD Yeah, and there’s people in the community who are actually creating or making these masks as well.

JC Yeah.

MD I guess given the circumstances you could understand how worldwide this is?

JC Yep, and the social care triage, who from the very start you had to phone the line, you got a code, and then you had to phone up and then you had to go to this place and give your identity to receive your preventative pack. So I think we were two weeks in with this nightmare and we still didn’t have our preventative pack, but we managed to get it, and then we’ve to get another pack now, but again we’re arriving there, “Sorry, that code doesn’t work”, then we’re having to come back. It’s just not properly set out, but as you say, it is a disaster everywhere. It’s worldwide. It’s not the best but we do have PPE, which is good.

MD And how would you say the guidance and support more widely I suppose from government has been to you?

JC We have been supported. We’ve been supported by our CLN, our nurse fees, all the kind of relevant people that normally support us on a daily basis, but it lacks dementia advice. All these rules are out. You see people saying you’re social distancing, keeping your two metres apart, and I think in one of the Channel 4 bits that they did on us there was a few comments that had been made about why are we so close to that resident. There was no advice for us on that. We couldn’t social distance from somebody living with dementia.

MD Yeah.

JC It’s physically impossible. So the other thing is that they told us that the residents would be tested. That’s not happened. That would have made a massive difference. If our residents had been tested from the start, from showing initial symptoms, the one or two that we had, I believe we could have maybe kept it under control a wee bit better, whether it be moving people about or getting a better game plan, but we couldn’t do that because there was no testing, and that was including staff as well. A lot of staff off. So there’s good points and bad points.

MD Yeah, and is there any testing on the way?

JC Well nothing that we know about. Nope. Our residents, we’ve been told they’ll not be getting tested. In fact, when you phone up to say that they have symptoms it’s very much, “Oh we’ll treat for an antibiotic for that chest infection and an antibiotic that could be a urine infection.” Sometimes there’s no mention of COVID-19.

MD Okay interesting, and would you be able to give any advice to any other organisations like yourselves who are in a similar situation?

JC Yep. Yep. Just to let them know that this will get better. We will come out the other end of this. I really just want to say to other people that are sitting in the seats that we’re sitting in as well, and carers and all the staff, not to blame themselves for anything that’s going on because we’re giving the best care that we can give. Again as I said before, we weren’t trained for this. So I know a lot of people are beating themselves up about bad things that are happening and losing people, losing residents, but just to make people aware that they are doing the best that they possibly can, and just to keep going. We’ll get out the other end of this.

MD And I think the mental health of people who are supporting other people is really important in all of this, and I guess it’s something when you come out of it at the other side is like how the trauma I suppose, is there going to be some post-traumatic trauma as a result of the fast responses that have had to be put in place?

JC Yeah. We’ve got a COVID-19 staff support line for that afterwards, for anybody that’s needing that. I think to be fair, here I think our staff, we’re supporting each other. So I’m quite confident that we’ll be okay, but that’s there if we need it. We have a wee room that we all come for a wee wallow and a wee hug, and then we dust ourselves off and go back out and it’s business.

MD Fantastic. It’s just amazing. Is there anything that you hope will change as a result of this crisis? I suppose there was the Scottish Government recruitment campaign earlier this year, which was called “There’s More to Care Than Caring”, and that’s absolutely playing out at the moment, and I suppose are there any things you hope for in terms of like how people maybe perceive or think about social care?

JC Absolutely. The respect for the skilled social care. The respect, it’s definitely got to change, and I think it’s taken something so bad like this to happen to make people realise how undervalued these people really are.

MD Yeah, and the actual skills that they bring to the role as well, and not just practical qualifications and skills, but skills and I suppose values as people.

JC Absolutely.

MD Quite different to a lot of other types of roles out there in say finance, business, you know?

JC Yeah, definitely. No, I completely agree. I even remember saying at one point that I feel like I’m a GP some days. That’s how it feels, and no disrespect to GPs. I appreciate they’re under a lot of pressure too, different pressure probably from what we are, but we feel that we’re having to make assessments and we normally wouldn’t do that. So there’s definitely that, and then there’s also the aspect of the person-centred care. That’s just amazing now because people have had the opportunity to spend one-to-one time, which again is not good for our residents, but they will be taking a positive from that, spending one-to-one time in their rooms. The carers have been in, we’ve been in, the manager’s been in. Everybody’s been in. All departments have been in to visit all our residents. So getting to know them really well. So the person-centred aspect is going to be much improved as well.

MD Maybe the more joined up working with the GPs, other health professionals, education or whatever, that’s not working quite as well right now?

JC It’s not the same. It’s calls over the phone and it’s relying on me to say as a nurse, you know, “This person’s displaying with x or b or y”, you know, and then they’re saying, “Okay, that’s fine. We’ll have an antibiotic for that.” It’s not the same. GPs would come out at the end of their surgery, have a look at the resident and diagnose them appropriately, whether it be hospital or with an antibiotic. That’s not happening. So that’s changed.

MD Well, Jennifer, that’s really all my questions. I’d just like to thank you again so much for sharing with me. It’s been an absolute pleasure and I’m wishing you and the team and the rest of the residents the best of health and the hope that’s there’s no more occurrences of COVID at the home.

JC Us too. Us too.

MD Okay, well I won’t take up any more of your time ‘cause I know you’ll be wanting to get back to it again.

JC No bother. Any time. Thank you very much for your time.

MD It was lovely to meet you. All the best. Thank you so much.

JC Bye-bye.

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