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Unprecedented year for care home team

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By Fiona Reid
Front
Unprecedented year for care home team

A YEAR on from the start of national lockdown and many things have changed in our day-to-day lives.

While everybody has stayed at home and stayed safe, for some of the oldest and most vulnerable members of the community that has been in one of the region’s care homes.

Kept away from families and friends, it has been the role of staff to be more like family members than ever before.

One such place which has risen to the occasion is Lockerbie’s Dryfemount.

With regular theme days, community involvement and parties, residents at the St Bryde’s Terrace property have enjoyed all sorts of entertainment.

And this week manager Melanie Wilson shared what life has been like facing a deadly virus while working with the elderly and vulnerable.

She said: “It has been very different, we have had to embrace technology – there was nothing else for it.

“We used to hold regular coffee mornings, now they are online but there aren’t a lot of takers.

“However, the family meetings that we hold once a month have seen attendance increase – they are joining us from as far as down south.

“Instead of having a newsletter on display every quarter, we have been sending out a monthly newsletter.

“It has helped us stay connected with relatives, and work with them.”

Though residents miss their own families, Melanie insists that life at Dryfemount is like one big family.

She said: “We’ve always been sort of family from family, very much a work family, but even more so in the last year, looking after each other, talking, rising to the occasion.

“But it has been hard. We have been used to pretty much having an open door policy, family would come in, they would make a cuppa for themselves and their loved one, and everyone else sitting round them.

“They’d bring in cake and sweets and yap and natter.

“Some would also help with the care side of things, such as sitting with a loved one while they were eating or join them for lunch.

“We miss the buzz as well, so we’ve had to try and create our own buzz – even if it is just dressing up silly and running up the corridors to silly music.”

In March last year Dryfemount experienced the full effect of the pandemic firsthand when they had an outbreak.

A number of residents and staff tested postive for Covid-19 and some, sadly, lost their lives to coronavirus.

A tactical team was brought in via the health and social care partnership to support them.

And Melanie said: “There’s been tremendous support and resilience off the team, then and now still.”

Meanwhile, several community projects have been embraced by staff, residents and locals.

A huge poppy display was created for Remembrance Sunday, and to celebrate spring handmade daffodils in all shapes, sizes and materials currently decorate the home.

For almost ten years Melanie has worked in the care sector, but this last year has been unique.

She said: “This will be our war story.

“We work with individuals who have memories of the first and second world wars, I think our generation, when we come to this stage in our lives, we’ll be reminiscing about ‘the year we had that pandemic’.

“We’ll look back on it and reflect.”

She also recognised a turn in the tide and said now is the time for vigilance, both to stop a further resurgence but also to protect mental health.

All residents have received both doses of the vaccine but now is not a time for complacency, says Melanie.

And she said: “The mortality risk has reduced, but until everybody is vaccinated and a new way of life has been embedded, I don’t think things will change.

“I think covid will become another more seasonal thing, like norovirus or winter flu.

“The light is there now, but you feel a bit more comfortable that if you caught it you wouldn’t necessarily die.

“But I don’t think we’ll be taking off the masks and throwing them out the window any time soon.”

And Melanie commented that through all the restrictions lessons have been learnt that otherwise would not have been developed.

She said: “It wouldn’t be achievable just by one group, we saw that with the tactical group.

“And there has been massive support from everyone – I’ve never seen so many managers and team leaders meet in the same place, ever.

“Because of the technology people can now attend much easier.

I think, if anything, it has taught people to share – share ideas, good practices, good and bad, and to learn from each other.”

No new covid cases

THERE have been no new cases of coronavirus in Dumfries and Galloway in the last week.