Running a care home: I’ve never experienced anything like this

Care home manager Eileen Gray explains what it's like caring for people during the coronavirus pandemic.

Running a care home: I’ve never experienced anything like this

My name is Eileen Gray. I have more than 25 years’ experience in care homes, first as a qualified nurse and now as a manager at Cramond Care Home in Edinburgh.

I can safely say that I have never experienced anything like the Covid-19 crisis – both in terms of the challenges it presents and in the fantastic response it has produced.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen such an amazing rallying round; everyone here is totally committed to getting through this together and to make sure that our residents’ lives are disrupted in as small a way as possible.

With the latest advice being that people should not be visiting elderly relatives, and the lockdown making unnecessary travel a ‘no-no’, we are advising all families to stay away unless there is a really pressing need – for example if their loved one has a medical emergency.

Naturally this is all very difficult for residents and their loved ones – contact with family is one of the most important parts of many residents’ weeks, so to have this taken away is upsetting. It’s just as much of a wrench for family and friends, many of whom have told us that they feel guilty about not coming in.

To try and tackle this, we have set up Skype accounts so family members can call in and speak to their relatives whenever they want. This is still a novelty and everyone is excited to see it in operation – hopefully it will go a long way to helping everyone feel a little bit less isolated. To keep morale up, our Lifestyle staff are interacting with residents on a one-to-one basis and have really gone to town coming up with new activities and entertainments.

To keep residents safe in the home all our staff are following the strictest possible hygiene protocols and we are helping all residents to ensure they wash their hands frequently and follow all other government guidelines.

Our home is organised around the idea of small-group living and residents are cared for in nine individual homes. This actually makes it easier for us to enforce a good degree of separation between residents.

We are caring for all residents within their houses and have restricted group gatherings outwith the houses. We have also designated staff for each house for the duration of their shift.

Of course this doesn’t happen without careful planning, so we have been having a contingency management meeting twice weekly. At this, senior management are kept abreast of all the developments and government guidelines. They then discuss the best strategic response and work out how to implement their plans. We email all relatives after such meetings to update them on developments.

Staff morale is currently high, although everyone is pragmatic and knows that the crisis will ask a lot of them in the coming weeks and months. They have all really rallied round and I am confident that their commitment and the teamwork that they have always shown will get us all through. People show their true colours when they are tested and I am proud of the way everyone at Cramond has stepped up to the challenge.