Every year Carers Week is an opportunity to celebrate those caring for the most vulnerable in our community, and the theme this year is ‘Making Caring Visible’.
This year carers week is very different, with many carers increasingly taking on care of their loved ones as a result of the lockdown, making recognising the contribution they make even more important.
Following the government’s package of COVID-19 funding support, Ealing have increased the resources available to local care providers to deal with these pressures. Supporting people receiving care in their own homes, in particular those most at risk.
Support workers and the management team at The Michael Flanders Centre in Acton have been carrying out daily calls with customers and family carers, checking to ensure the wellbeing of the customers is continually monitored.
The centre would usually provide daily respite care for customers aged over 55, who have been assessed by Ealing Council as having critical or substantial needs and a diagnosis of dementia and require day care opportunities.
“With many people having to self-isolate it has meant that we have had to explore different ways to connect with the carers in our community,” said resource centre manager Patricia Hayward.
“The current climate has made our role more challenging. Our customers are familiar with us and want to come close and hug you. Some customers with dementia especially respond to touch, which helps in alleviating their anxiety. I feel that with what’s happening outside in the world this may impact on their cognitive impairment and memory loss.”
During the lockdown customers have received doorstep, welfare visits and garden visits with key workers from the Michael Flanders Centre. This has ensured that the carers are supported and updated with any information which is relevant. All visits have been carried out respecting the social distancing rules.
Patricia commented: “The importance of social contact, that essential listening ear and phone call every couple of days is so important.
“We recognised that some carers would need extra support during COVID-19. Our key workers have continued to provide carers and their loved ones in need of care with vital social contact during the lockdown – particularly individuals with little contact or no outside help due to isolation within their own homes”
During the lockdown, Carers Support Groups have been vital and are held weekly online or through video calls, providing information and therapeutic sessions to carers. There are usually up to 20 carers and customers who participate in the weekly contact calls from staff.
Below, we hear from carers coping through COVID-19 with extra support during the lockdown from the caring staff at Michael Flanders Centre.
Shelley Okwuosa, a trained a nurse and carer who works full time, and who also has a disabled son, receives help to look after her Mum (Patricia – age 84). She said: “Now that she is at home, the carer goes in to see her, they always look after her, and she can keep her dignity. I couldn’t ask for more from Michael Flanders centre. I trust them, they go in and see Mum and they always call to let me know if she is feeling down.”
“Since lockdown the day care support workers call and visit twice a week relieving the pressure.”
David Firth, whose wife Carol (73 years old) is also a customer at the centre, said: “Throughout the 13 weeks of voluntarily self-isolating, right from the beginning they have been very dedicated to us, they are fantastic people.”
Marian Stephens who looks after her 86 year-old husband living with Parkinson and glaucoma commented on the weekly visits from the key worker.
“He sits at the doorway on a chair, staff stand on the driveway maintaining social distancing and speaking to us both. He seems to perk up when they arrive and he looks forward to these visits and so do I. I am able to contact the staff by telephone or by email if I need to and I feel supported by them.”
Ealing has an estimated 35,000 adult carers. The highest concentration of carers is in Southall, Greenford and Northolt.
Find out more about caring and support for carers on the council’s website.