Care home worker reveals 'huge responsibility' during Covid
- Credit: Copyright: Archant 2020
Marcia Hughes is wellbeing coordinator at Thorp House, in Griston, near Watton.
She describes the maelstrom of emotions that has affected her since the nursing home became affected by Covid early in the pandemic.
At the start of the pandemic I think I was just so shocked at the speed that the country was locked down and workers furloughed.
The images of the hospitals and people queuing for food was alarming and I felt really grateful that my husband and daughter were safe at home.
My nine-year-old daughter was ill first and then me later with a terrible cough that we just couldn’t shake, I don’t know if this was coronavirus but we were really ill.
We isolated immediately and then a week later I heard the awful news that it was in the home. I knew a resident had returned from hospital and I felt tortured that she may have given it to me and then me to my daughter or vice versa, me to the resident.
I blamed myself for ages. The not knowing was the worst and I worried that my co-workers would all hate me but when I returned to work, I realised others felt the same.
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When I heard a resident had died, I vomited and cried – the guilt was staggering even though no one really knew how it had been brought into the home. Even now if I think too much it makes me feel low.
I really struggled to be at home knowing my work colleagues were working so hard without me, I have always emphasised the importance of team work to my team and I felt I had let them down at the most crucial time. It was all over the phone.
Coming back to work was challenging as I realized staff were also isolating or shielding.
PPE was hit and miss initially with some very random things appearing in the orders and gloves and aprons of all colours appearing.
I felt a huge responsibility that if the orders didn’t come in we would all be exposed to the virus so it was a huge relief to hear that PPE had been secured at head office.
The activities program I had worked so hard to build up just disappeared over night as the entertainers, play groups, were all cancelled. It was like time had stopped.
As residents were confined to their rooms with the doors shut, the noise levels died down and the atmosphere was horrible and empty. It was so depressing.
All I could offer was one-to-one visits. Residents were so grateful to see me and often kept me longer chatting because they didn’t want to be left alone again.
In the end I felt so stretched that I focused on the residents with more mental capacity and less on others – it felt awful making this choice.
When the residents’ doors opened again, noises from televisions filled the corridors. It was music to my ears and I felt very tearful and emotional.
Summer lifted everyone and I felt like we were moving forward again but even then I felt very guilty at only being able to take selected residents out into the garden.
Dementia was challenging with people who like to wander trying to go to restricted areas and it was a constant battle to deter them without frustration and aggression rearing.
Zoom, Facetime, Whats App had previously been a mystery to me; I now thank God we have these options in place as they have been invaluable ways of helping residents communicate with their families.
The local communities have all been quite frankly amazing rallying around with clapping for carers, cakes, gifts, messages and good wishes.
I plan in the future when it is safe to do so to hold a garden party to remember the people we have lost but also so say thank you to everyone.
My husband was then made redundant in September - we knew the furlough couldn’t last but it was still a shock.
Universal credits were no help and I really started to panic about getting into financial difficulties, I looked for other jobs with a higher wage.
I was really upset at the thought of leaving a job I really enjoy. I reconsidered and trusted that something would turn up.
It did and things are financially better, though I do worry that Covid-19 can change it all again.
My anxiety now has increased – I worry about things I never did before, but I remind myself that I am not in control of this and that I can only be responsible for myself.
I try to focus on the future and getting back to where we once were but it does seem like a very long way away.