Photo by Georg Arthur Pflueger on Unsplash

Conveying care in Covid: Sawbridgeworth’s unsung heroes of the pandemic

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 THE CORONAVIRUS pandemic has affected everyone in different ways. Yet, none have been hit as hard as the elderly who have suffered greatly from the lockdowns A recurring sentiment that is ingrained into the attitudes of senior citizens, is the idea of ‘wartime spirit’.  This stoicism can be argued to be a form of stubbornness and not wanting to capitulate their freedoms for the sake of health, but some see this frame of mind as optimism in a time of economic, social and political depression.  

There have been many unsung heroes of the pandemic, and their efforts will be relayed for years to come. One of these is Kerry Reynolds, manager of the Hailey Centre in Sawbridgeworth. The Hailey Centre provides a lifeline for over 60’s and has had to greatly alter the activities that they would have provided pre-pandemic.  

Ms Reynolds said: “The pandemic has changed how we operate dramatically and we have had to streamline what we can provide to the elderly to ensure that we are keeping to the government guidelines.  

“The local community has been amazing. They have done things that we would have traditionally provided for them such as visiting elderly people for a socially distant chat, neighbours doing a welfare check via a phone call and other things such as doing their shopping for them. I am really quite proud of what we were able to achieve since the first lockdown.” 

When Ms Reynolds was asked how she felt regarding the restrictions and what complications she has dealt with in the past 12 months, she responded with: “Completely and utterly frustrated. All the plans and trips we had scheduled came to a stop when we went into the first lockdown. When that lifted, we came back in September and began to get things in place again. Then the second lockdown happened. It was a stop-start kind of year.”

With the majority of over 70’s being fully vaccinated, the Hailey Centre can now look forward for the green light to offer the activities that members enjoy. 

Pictured: Members of the Hailey Centre
Source: Kerry Reynolds

Another landmark moment in the pandemic was seen in care homes and how the virus infected residents and staff alike. One care home worker Spotlight spoke to, who wishes to remain anonymoustold our reporter that seeing otherwise healthy residents contract the virus was one of the most hopeless moments in their life. 

They recounted: “The amount of PPE simply wasn’t good enough. We were at the bedside of the residents who were dying and were not able to have family around them due to the restrictions. Not only was our work life changing, but our home life too.  

“Services are in place to support our mental health should we need to voice our feelings after a particularly difficult shift. Some staff had COVID-19 and it was difficult not seeing them at work as I was not sure what condition they were in. Some got it particularly bad and were off for months.”  

Fortunately, the situation in care homes has seen significant improvementmore recently. With the roll-out of the multiple coronavirus vaccines and with rapid testing kits being issued across the country, families are once again being reunited.  

The care home worker continued: “At one point it felt as if most residents wouldn’t be reunited with their families and friends. We just didn’t know when this was going to end. I am so thankful that the end is in sight.” 

An alternative perspective lies with the family. Care home residents were left without physical contact from their families. Michelle Stebbings is the daughter of a care home resident with dementia who went into a care home at the beginning of the pandemic. She said that the experience had left her feeling isolated and alone.  

“I am being told when and where I can see my dad. Don’t get me wrong, I fully understand why this is the case and I’m doing this for his and the other residents safety. However, there is so much ‘red-tape and it is very formal. I’m used to being able to see Dad when I want and not having to think twice.

“When I was finally allowed to see himthe visit was in a ‘pod’, which was divided by a plastic screen. It was like visiting him in prison. Due to the time that had passed since we last saw each other, he did not recognise me at first because he was only familiar with seeing the staff instead of his family. It was heart breaking.” 

Michelle says she is continuing to adapt to a life that is so different to the one that she had prior to the pandemic. She hopes that one day normality will return so that she can spend more time with her father inside and outside the care home.  

Main photo: An elderly person with her carer. Source: Georg Arthur Pflueger, Unsplash

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