Cheryl, Home Manager at Hartsholme House reflects on 2020
Many highlights among challenging days at the Lincoln home which adopted the motto 'Tough times don’t last, tough teams do'.
Cheryl joined OSJCT in 2002 and became the manager at Hartsholme House, Lincoln in 2012. In 2020 she put all her years of experience to great use during the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring that the 44-bed CQC Outstanding home for residential and dementia care remained a safe and vibrant place.
As the pandemic emerged in March, Cheryl knew that clear action was needed, especially as residents with dementia may not understand the risks of infection. Ahead of the national lockdown, the home introduced new protocols and isolated every resident in their rooms for their protection.
Cheryl said: “In just two days we changed the home environment. We assessed each bedroom to make it comfortable for residents, moved furniture around and implementing strict personal protective equipment (PPE) for all staff. Sadly, we stopped relatives and entertainers from visiting. It was the right thing to do. We did everything we could to keep residents and staff safe.”
Initially there was a lot of fear and worry among the home's 72 employees about the virus and ongoing media focus on care homes. Cheryl and her senior team, including Head of Care Conny, spoke to all colleagues to offer emotional support. Cheryl said: “We reminded them about the Trust’s Employee Assistance Programme, offered counselling, support from Admiral Nurses and made ourselves available.
“It was a huge responsibility to lead the team and reassure everyone. I had to be realistic, the course of COVID-19 was unknown. As I always do, I explain that when we all follow the rules, we are doing the best we can.
“I am so proud of everyone. Within two weeks the team’s concerns moved from the fear of catching COVID-19 to focusing on what we needed to do. They were asking what they could do for residents and the home. Some offered to move in or work longer shifts. It’s a great credit to the team that we have never had to employ agency staff.”
Cheryl’s highlights for 2020
There have been many highlights among challenging days. Cheryl said: “The Trust-wide tree planting and remembrance ceremony in August was special. It was a sunny day where residents and their families joined this outside event.
“The country was out of the first wave; infection control protocols were embedded in the home and residents socialising in small bubbles. I thanked my team for their dedication and loyalty to the home, and I expressed my appreciation for the support, understanding and patience shown by residents and their families.
“We adopted the phrase ‘Tough times don’t last, tough teams do’.”
In September, the home featured on national BBC news showing how care homes had adapted to the pandemic. Head of Care Conny was interviewed as well as a resident and his son. Cheryl said: “It was exciting to have the BBC film highlight the home and show happy residents waving from their balconies.”
Another success has been upskilling two staff members to carry out minor nursing duties such as changing skin dressings. This relieved the pressure on busy district nurses and was reassuring for residents. Later in the year several team members were recognised for their hard work in OSJCT and national care swards.
After the first wave, limited visiting was allowed. Cheryl said: “In the summer relatives visited their loved ones in our garden or via balconies. When the weather turned cold, the Trust invested in indoor visiting rooms, installed by December. It has been a joy to see visits taking place.
“Hartsholme is a thriving community. We all enjoy celebrating those special occasions that matter to our residents. In 2020 these included two residents who turned 100 and several wedding anniversaries.
“We’ve also been delighted to welcome new residents. Despite the understandable concerns about moving to a care home, the message is getting through that we offer a safe, homely and personalised place to live.”
Cheryl’s hopes for 2021
There are many members of the community who will be welcomed back into the home once it is safe to do so.
Cheryl said: “We are very much looking forward to welcoming back all our wonderful volunteers to play games with the residents. I miss the school children who used to come to the home, and we will restart our Hartsholme band so that we can have a singsong. We’ve made really good use of our gardens this year, and I hope that next summer we will hold a celebratory garden party with everyone who supports our home.”