A Message for Social Care Staff

My name is Marina Palomo, and I work as a Support Lead in Keeping Well NCL. Prior to taking up this role, I worked as a psychologist supporting older people’s care homes for a local NHS trust. I wanted to talk a little bit about some of my experiences of this work during the pandemic and tell you about how Keeping Well NCL can support social care staff.

Since March 2020, I have witnessed the challenges that my social care colleagues have faced. I have witnessed the fear, as we faced something that we did not understand and were not prepared for. I have witnessed sadness, as teams lost colleagues and residents (who I know staff often see and treat as their own family). I have witnessed the isolation faced by staff and residents alike, as homes had to restrict who could visit in order to keep everyone safe.

I have also witnessed teams pulling together, and staff stepping up to take new roles to make sure that the people they care for were looked after.

My admiration for care home teams can barely be put into words. Their bravery, particularly in the early days when we faced a completely unknown situation, and PPE was sometimes hard to access and their determination to keep going and ensure that residents’ needs were met will stay with me forever.

The impact of these last nearly two years now will be different for different people, and even for the each of us, different at different times. For many of us, a lot of the time, support from family, friends and our teams will have got us through. For some, there may be positives emerging, in terms of what we’ve learnt about ourselves and our teams. New connections, and ways of working together, perhaps. At other times, it will be natural that we may struggle with the impact of the abnormal situation that we have experienced. Perhaps, now that some time has passed you may have a bit more space to reflect on the shock, fear and loss you may have faced. As the situation continues, you may be tired from so many months of uncertainty and going above and beyond. Things may be catching up with you and may feel tough, as you process what you have been through.

One thing that often strikes me when I talk to care home and home care staff, is their dedication to their residents or clients and how little they often think of themselves. It can be really hard for us as health and care workers to ask for support – it is common to feel that our job is to support others and when we see that support is available, we imagine it is there for other people. I really recognise this from my own personal experience. I was glad support was available for my colleagues but I felt that somehow I should manage without; my job was to support others. It took a while for me to spot the fact that I was not practicing what I was preaching – and that I should apply what I knew about the benefits of seeking support to myself. I am only human, and of course I felt worry, sadness and anger too. I wasn’t immune from the effects of the uncertainty in both my work life and my family life.

When I eventually plucked up the courage to speak to someone about my own experiences I was so glad that I did. I can now tell you from my conversations with care home colleagues and teams and also from my own experience, what a big difference it can make to reach out, and have a safe space to talk and think, or to connect with others and feel less alone. Turns out the saying is right ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup’ and looking after ourselves can actually be a way of looking after others by recharging us to keep going.

So if you’re listening to this as a staff member in a care home, home care agency or anywhere else across health and social care in North Central London, firstly, thank you for the skilled work you have done to look after our loved ones during this challenging time. Secondly, my most important message is that it is really crucial to show yourself the care that you have shown the people you look after.

If you are listening, and you think that your team may benefit from the opportunity to come together and reflect on what you’ve been through, what’s kept you going, and how to keep going in the future, or if you are thinking that you as an individual may need some support (as I know I have done at certain points) please get in touch with us at KeepingWell NCL via our website www.keepingwellncl.nhs.uk and we will be really pleased to find a way to support you, as you support others.

We know that our social care staff in North Central London have faced enormous challenges during the pandemic. In KeepingWell NCL’s latest podcast, Marina Palomo, KeepingWell Hub Support Lead, draws from her experience working with staff across social care to acknowledge these challenges and show her admiration and respect for our care colleagues’ skills and continuing dedication.

Marina also reflects on how overcoming these challenges may mean that some of us, or our teams, might need a little extra support, and gives some guidance for taking the first steps to access staff support through the KeepingWell NCL Hub.

Marina is a KeepingWell NCL Hub Support Lead, whose 18 years of experience as a Clinical Psychologist working with families, carers and staff teams has given her a strong appreciation of the importance of supporting those who support others. She is committed to sustaining compassionate cultures of care and work. Marina’s her previous role prior to joining the Hub involved supporting care home teams and residents during the pandemic.