From desk to doorstep

Living well with dementia is important, though there may come a time when initiating social contact becomes a challenge. For some people living with dementia there may be increased isolation. For those living with a partner or family and friends, as dementia progresses their daily care needs may be hard to manage or support.

Attending a day service which offers stimulating activities, whilst at the same time providing respite for family carers, benefits not only the person with dementia, but also helps families continue their support.

The COVID-19 lockdown brought an end to this overnight.

Foreseeing the psychological or emotional consequences of the loss of day centre support, one day centre has switched to offering daily support via phone calls to its former attenders and their carers. Additionally, as day centre staff have great experience in providing ‘customer care’ to relatives, they quickly became part of the COVID-19 Emergency Shielding Residents Response.

The lockdown brought not just change to day centres in our local communities. Companies which were already struggling filed for bankruptcy within days of the lockdown. Others redirected their product line to sell soap and scrubs to the NHS. Creative operating like vending skills and providing services via online platforms have become essential for corporate survival. Yoga via Zoom is the ‘new Zen’. Some companies are lucky to have reserves, others can offer their employees furlough by drawing on government funds. However, not all organisations are able to sustain customer absence for a long-time and perhaps have little opportunity to convert their product into a living room experience, such as amusement parks. Working from home, whilst at the same time home-schooling the children and your partner or housemate turning into your colleague, is undoubtedly a rollercoaster experience for many of us.

Councils are not exempt from the new turbulent reality where some jobs have suddenly become less essential whereas others are in high demand. One South London Council has recognised the urgency for such a shift and encouraged its staff to volunteer to work in areas of its services needing a workforce boost, among which is social care. To induct people to social care work normally takes some time and often includes taking the Care Certificate. The COVID-19 pandemic, however, demanded almost instant responses. This Council therefore designed and delivered an introductory session to help people move from administrative work (desk bound) into some of their social care services, such as the provision of essential help to some people needing help at home. Everyone reported feeling much better informed after this introductory training. No matter what their care experience, ranging from being totally new to social care to having some former professional and/or personal experience, they felt ready to move. This was a welcome success at a time when all organisations are needing to think quickly on their feet.

As times goes by, the pressure on frontline NHS staff is becoming painfully obvious and social care is taking up the pressure too. The risks of infection extend to many frontline social care staff who are also potentially risking their health by supporting people in care homes and in the community. It is therefore only fair that social care staff are included in the Thursday clapping sessions during which the nation shows its appreciation. Thus it would be lovely to see the Shard skyscraper not only light up in blue for this weekly event, but for it to state that it also honours social care staff as well as our NHS colleagues.