Sarah Carney – Emotional Strength in a Time of Uncertainty

In the early hours, half asleep, I received a call to say one of our residents had died of Covid in hospital. I could feel the sadness over coming me, that feeling in your throat. I got dressed and left.

At this time, my colleague and I were supporting a residential nursing home as an interim, due to the manager being unwell at the start of Covid lockdown.   

As services we are now supporting people in different ways and we have different systems in place.

Infection control, PPE, social distancing is all the current trend at work and at home.

Driving to work on that day, brought a different feeling, I didn’t have concerns about being late or I need to finish a piece of work but an anxious feeling in my stomach, my mouth was dry, different thoughts went through my head, sadness for the person who had died other families who will be fearing the same for their loved ones, how do we support families, what if staff don’t turn up for work because of their fear of Covid or have family member affected by this, the questions, thoughts continued for the rest of the drive.

Now when I look back on this drive, I realise this was just anxiety getting the better of me.

All the policies and procedures can be followed but what no one really knew, was the impact of the emotional trauma that this would have, on all of us.  

This was going to pull upon every bit of my experience and knowledge and the skills I had learnt over the years, I also knew I was going to work along side a great colleague who also had years of experience, and was very knowledgeable.

Working together, we will get through this. This became my inner voice.

I walked through the residential doors, with confidence, “Morning” I said. I was greeted with, “Morning” – but there was a “but, we have no staff, no nurse on site, staff worried about Covid being in our care home, is it true someone has died of Covid?”

I have always been honest with staff and at this time, it was important that staff knew that we had sadly lost someone in hospital with Covid but the reception area of a residential home was not the place to discuss it, so with a deep breath, calm voice, I acknowledged the staff worries, explained we would have a meeting to update staff.

The next step was to look at ensuring our residents were safe.

By the early afternoon, my colleague and Ihad started to implement an action plan.

Our 4 priorities were:

  • Keeping our residents safe and well
  • Acknowledging family members anxieties and fear of their loved ones catching Covid and how we can support them in any way we can
  • Keeping our staff safe and well, supporting them through this crisis, listening to their concerns, fears and anxieties. Respecting their opinions and working together to find solutions.
  • Reflecting on the day. This could be anything, the pain of losing someone, what went well, what do we need to do differently.

Leading a team in the Covid 19 pandemic brought out an inner strength that I wasn’t aware of before.

My expectation of staff was high, things needed to change quickly and at times I found myself frustrated and annoyed, not with the staff but with the situation.

The expectations from staff, family members, commissioners, GP’s and others was sometimes over whelming, at times you just didn’t have the time to think but I had to keep calm, think through the priorities, even making a list, got me through these times.

Communication was vital – being seen and working alongside care staff enabled you to check in with staff on how they felt and share their experiences.

It was important that we supported and responded to our staff’s mental health needs. Staff needed to know that we cared and valued them.

Regular meetings, where staff could bring anything to the table, were listened to, respected, and difficult situations discussed in a sensitive way. We all reflected on the days together, the sadness, and keeping people well.

Sarah Carney is an Independence & Well Being Service Manager in Enfield. She shares her experience of supporting a Care Home at the onset of a pandemic and the need for emotional strength during a time of uncertainty.

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