Portable visitor pods have been supplied to several care homes in Pembrokeshire as part of ongoing support for residents and their families.
The pods enable residents and their loved ones to meet face-to-face, following a risk assessment.
They are among a range of support being given to care homes while the pandemic continues, says Pembrokeshire County Council’s Director of Social Services, Jonathan Griffiths.
“It continues to be a very difficult time for people living in care homes and their families who have not been able to see each other,” he said.
“Indoor visits are still restricted to exceptional circumstances only and so providing other ways of helping families to communicate has been vital.
“Everyone in the care sector has worked hard throughout the pandemic to address this through a variety of options.
“In particular, I have to thank care home staff who have been absolutely fantastic and really put the health and wellbeing of their residents first and foremost.”
He said Pembrokeshire County Council had worked closely with care homes to help them facilitate engagement with families.
Council support has included the loan of tablets and other IT equipment to allow residents to see and chat to their loved ones online, as well as financial help to enable homes to upgrade IT infrastructure and buy digital devices.
The Council has also operated a provider hub, which has been making proactive support calls to all care homes to give advice, guidance and wellbeing help as appropriate.
A regional grant has also been set up via the ICF (Integrated Care Fund) called the ‘Connecting People, Improving Wellbeing’ care home grant.
The grant has also enabled care homes to purchase various items of IT to support family engagement and a further capital ICF has helped providers to meet the costs of adapting their homes and creating safe visiting areas – including the visitor pods.
Tracy Chandra, Registered Manager and Responsible Individual at Gelli Mor, a small residential home for young adults with Learning Disabilities, Autism, Mental Health and Challenging Behaviour, said the grant had made a massive difference.
“When COVID and lock down hit, it completely changed how we had to work and support,” she said. “Our amazing staff team worked to redo activity plans with them to ensure they could still learn, be happy, social and healthy. They replicated activities at home to the best of their ability with every resource possible and worked hard to install comfort, calmness and a new way of living.
“One of the priorities for us was maintaining their social interaction and connecting with their family, friends and groups they attended. Being able to obtain the Connecting People, Improving Wellbeing Care Home grant enabled us to purchase a new larger PC for our service users to use for online zoom activities from Zumba, fitness, sport, cooking, quizzes, craft, music and dancing.
“It enabled them to connect with family and friends through Zoom and for them to continue with seeing all professionals involved in their care and support. It also enabled them to see video messages from people they couldn’t see. It has increased the amount of activities/tasks we can do and the quality due to screen size.
“This has made the service users feel connected, happy and in touch with their normal life, which in turn has helped us manage their care and support.”
Gaye Scurlock, Director and Responsible Individual at Silver Springs Support Ltd, also said the ‘Connecting People, Improving Wellbeing’ grant was very helpful.
“It’s made a massive difference to how our residents have been able to connect with their families and friends over the last few months and has meant that they feel that they are seeing them and not forgotten,” she said.
“We have been able to access the grants for our two care homes, Pips Lodge and Hafan. Both have received Facebook Portals, Smart TVs and IPad. They have regular games evenings, bingo between the two homes is quite competitive at times. They are also able to play games with one another, have karaoke sessions and just to talk to their friends. It has also made a difference to the staff as they feel they are seeing someone outside of their usual bubble, which in the current situation is an immense bonus to them.”
Cllr Tessa Hodgson, Cabinet Member for Social Services, praised the care sector for striking the difficult balance between protecting people from coronavirus and maintaining their health and well-being through contact with their families.
“Although the vaccination programme is well underway and thankfully we now have some light at the end of the tunnel, we will continue to support families as best we can, both now and in the future,” she said.