Why each step in caring for others brings us closer to compassion

EachStep care home in Blackley, part of social care charity Community Integrated Care, specialises in looking after people with dementia. Manager Michelle Phillips, 49, who has spent almost 30 years in social care, reflects on their Covid experience to date, working with council and community health colleagues – and how treating residents with dignity remained a priority, even at the point of a virus outbreak. This is her experience in her own words – and why she is proud of colleagues for keeping laughter, light and self-isolation birthday parties going within the home, even at the bleakest points.

 


Manchester Health and Care Commissioning arranged a visit by Noah’s Art animal therapy to the care home for both residents and staff – most of whom saw the dogs and guineapigs through the windows.

Cathriene Brown aged 26 from Noah’s Art

I think everyone in the care home sector thought it would be a case of when, and not if, Covid would affect our residents.

And that’s so hard because we see our residents as part of our extended families. When you consider how much time we spend with them, you build up relationships and you want them treated like your own. My Dad lives here – so it shows you how much faith I have in the services. I don’t like the term ‘dementia sufferers’ because with the right activity, support and stimulation you can live well with the condition.

We reacted quickly to the pandemic situation and brought in measures to keep residents and colleagues as safe as we possibly could.

We had daily phone calls from the public health infection prevention and control team as well as from the social care team – which all helped with feeling supported and knowing where we could ask questions and get answers. Some of those relationships are very long term – and again that local knowledge counts for a lot.

For example, we were able to text links to our staff of films they made to show how to take on an and off personal protective equipment (PPE)- at a time when it felt like there was new advice every day.

I wanted my colleagues to know they could trust what they were being told and to have confidence – so I made sure they could see the PPE supplies in a downstairs room.

Michelle Phillips, the manager at Each Step with one of the therapy dogs
Michelle Phillips, the manager at Each Step with one of the therapy dogs

When we got our first Covid case we then used the design of our buildings to isolate certain areas on the ground floor to help with safe management.

When some of our residents had been so ill that they were taken to hospital, we made the decision that there was no question of not taking them back here, to their home. I found it really tough when one of our residents in particular died, because I’d known her for a long time – and she had been living so well with dementia. It broke my heart, especially as her daughter was not able to see her, so we set up WhatsApp calls so they could have those last hours with each other.

We all made a ceremonial guard of honour when she was taken away – it felt like the last thing we could do for her to show our respect.

And, that’s the reality of what staff have been facing. They leave their own homes and families – knowing they are facing a deadly virus – but they still come in with smiles on their faces because they know it’s the best way to help, by keeping as much normality as possible. They even arranged birthday treats for residents who had to be in isolation.

When I interview for roles here I always look for signs of emotional intelligence – you can teach certain aspects of the job, but you can never teach someone what to have in their heart – that’s something you are born with. And that’s why caring professions need so much more value – because compassion is worth as much as medical treatment.