In our introduction post, we mentioned how we would be assisted with a working life representative and would introduce them later on. To respect their privacy, we will not be using any real names in our blogposts, nor will we give out any information which might give away the nursing home.
However, here are some details to paint a picture for you all:
This particular nursing home has two units, infection and psychogeriatric unit. Memory disorders are the main diagnosis, “like probably in many elderly homes”, ponders our working life representative.
There are around 20 residents in these units altogether. As of staff, there are 15 staff members in both units.
Our group wanted to know more about the tasks of our working life representative, who works as a supervisor in this particular nursing home. Managing the nursing home as a whole, wellbeing of staff and also planning work schedule for staff are the main ones that came to their mind. An important task for a supervisor is also to keep an eye on the quality of services and make sure laws and regulations are met.
In our posts, we will refer to this elderly home as “Sacramento” and our working life representative as “Klaus”.
Without a doubt, pandemic touches everyone’s life at least to some extent. This is easy to grasp just by taking a look at your own daily life and all the adjustments you have adopted to stay safe and keep others safe as well.
Doing groceries, seeing loved ones, travelling, going to hobbies or work… These are things which we thought to be apart of our lives and maybe thought nothing could ever compromise. Masks have been introduced to many for the first time in their lives, socializing is being restricted and even jobs have been lost. These are to name a few. In this post, we want to bring to your attention how this pandemic has touched Sacramento, all the residents and staff members.
Picture by Sailing ‘Footprints: Real to Reel’ (Ronn ashore)
When the pandemic hit and restrictions were applied to residents lives, it really took a toll on connecting with their loved ones.
During spring and summer, visiting residents in Sacramento was not possible indoors. This resulted in coming up with new ways for residents to meet their family and friends. Visitation happened mostly outdoors and social distancing was kept in mind during visits, and of course, it is still being highlighted. An interesting and innovative solution was a “meet up van” provided by the city where Sacramento is located in. In the van, there is a plastic seethrough “wall” in the middle, so residents are able to be on the other side and their visitors on the other. For anyone with movement restrictions (for instance residents in wheelchairs) there is a mechanism, which allows them to be lifted into the van.
Klaus commented on this that it was definitely better than nothing. However, the wall did make it hard to hear the other person on the other side, especially with residents who are already struggling with their hearing. The van was able to move from a unit to another so this made it accessible for everyone. Now that indoor visitation has been allowed again, the van has been no longer needed.
Masks are worn by staff members at all times. This is a safety precaution, which also brings some challenges to residents. For residents struggling with hearing, reading from lips is not an option anymore. Also, residents who are struggling with memory are having a hard time remembering and recognizing people behind the masks.
“You find yourself introducing yourself over and over again on a daily”Klaus
Even though there have not been corona cases in Sacramento units, the staff is still overwhelmed. There have been lots of changes, adapting and unfamiliarity which takes a toll on social workers.
Usually, there are volunteers coming to spend time with residents, but now it has been quiet. This is a good topic to ponder on, whether it is better to be safe and not have “extra people” coming to the facilities, or if this will restrict too much of the social life of residents.
However, volunteers are still welcome. Klaus did agree on the fact that maybe volunteers think elderly homes wish for fewer people coming in and out. This is something we want to highlight on; if you wish to volunteer in an elderly home, you are always welcome to reach out by phone first and make sure how they feel about visitors at this time. There is no harm in asking.
Taking a walk with residents outdoors with a required distance is at least doable in many places and can bring a lot of joy in these restricted times.
Just like volunteers, Klaus made a note on the fact that family members also did not feel comfortable visiting too often, even though there were alterations made to make visiting possible. The risks are still there. This obviously took a toll on many residents social life. Not just this, but also the activities held in Sacramento suffered. For example crafting and such does not work out that easily when touching the same items and close contact should be eliminated.
Confusion and adapting
Klaus did notice the effect on residents, especially with those who had been used to their close ones visiting on a daily basis.
“Just lots of confusion with this situation, and the fear of the unknown is what makes it harder.”Klaus
Now everything feels a lot easier in Sacramento. The situation of course is still ongoing but the confusion on this “new normal” has calmed down a bunch. And, even though social distancing is still something to keep in mind, Klaus thinks with “our Finnish personalities, maybe it doesn’t really differ that much from previous”, and laughs it out. “…and now we are also allowed to hide behind masks!” This positive way of thinking ends this post well to wait for the next one, where we wish to share more of Klaus’ views and highlight the positive aspects on this current situation!
- “Older Elderly sister looking down – bangkok” by Sailing ‘Footprints: Real to Reel’ (Ronn ashore) is licensed with CC BY-NC-ND 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/