COVID-19 bought unexpected changes for the way we operate as a business. Our staff worked hard to prioritise the wellbeing of the people we support while adapting to change after change. They had to manage expectations of family and friends and comply with the forever changing Government guidelines around COVID-19.
Georgina Booth started her role as Service Manager at Chiltern View during lockdown. She made the decision to live at the service and isolate with residents. She moved into the care home in April 2020.
Starting a new job during lockdown required a new way of working. Georgina would alternate between night and day shifts. When it was quiet, she would use that time to read up on the people we support and learn Voyage Care’s processes and COVID-19 regulations.
The residents warmed to her quickly. Together, they developed routines that helped them, and staff adapt to the new normal.
Georgina told us what life was like at the service during lockdown; “Chiltern View during that time was my work and home life and to me it balanced perfectly. I was supporting a service that needed support, guidance and an injection of something different. I was keen to bring in something different – I made sure I was happy and getting everyone involved with activities and keeping their spirits up.”
“Living at Chiltern View was a huge roller coaster in learning for me, I had to get to know the people being supported, their medications and preference, diagnosis and not to mention their families and loved ones.”
She lived at the service for six weeks and when she moved out the team and the residents arranged an “eviction barbecue.”
The usual challenges of starting a new leadership job were all there – but doing so during lockdown just made them ten times more important: learning new processes and systems as well as supporting and managing staff.
For the people we support they struggled with not being able to see their family and friends. This proved challenging for staff too as they had to come up with new ideas to keep communication between residents and their loved ones frequent. Georgina explained “Communication is key for families and external professionals, as long as I was open and transparent, I could not foresee an issue. I always try and get the opinions of families as much as possible because if I had a loved one in a home somewhere, I would want to know what was happening and be involved in some way. I always look at it from that point of view – then everything else is a doddle.”
Our staff had to face huge changes in their roles – and they made adjustments very quickly. Discussing changes and getting input from the team made everyone feel included. Changes were introduced gradually, trialled and tested to make sure the whole team were happy with new processes.
Georgina was aware of the stress her staff faced due to COVID-19. She made sure that she was available, acknowledged their emotions and signposted them to resources that Voyage Care make available for anyone struggling with mental health or personal issues.
We asked Georgina about her experience of living at Chiltern View, she said, “To me the whole experience was a positive and I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.”
For key workers, support from their employer, family and friends is what encouraged them to continue doing their amazing work. Georgina told us about the support she received “I received so much support from absolutely everyone – I have never ever experienced so much support from so many different ‘ranks’ of individuals in an organisation.”
“Andrew Cannon, our CEO, called in and welcomed and thanked me (good job I’d done my research beforehand!), the regional support manager, people in the quality team, our Managing Director, Ayesha Trott and even managers from other sites emailed and offered support. I was and still am amazed at how much support was literally being thrown to me.”
Collaborative learning, teamwork, staff involvement in coming up with innovative ideas to keep everyone engaged and entertained were some of the positives for the team at Chiltern View.
We spoke to Georgina about what this experience taught everyone at the service, she said,
“I think the staff have also learnt that communication is key not just with each other but more importantly the people we support, they just need to be tuned into to everyone’s nuances and gestures to understand what they are communicating.”
The new normal
Support teams are continuing to plan fun activities to maintain routines as best as possible. The people we support are getting more person-centred support to make their own choices and to be more independent through COVID-19.
Georgina said, “Being part of the service made me value my role and recognise that although I didn’t have anything different or special to offer, I was going to make it my mission that the people being supported would feel special, valued and felt purpose in their lives even with COVID-19 in our lives.”