We're all in this together

[images taken pre-lockdown]

In this blog, Greta Warner a Service Manager from Windsor talks about her experiences during lockdown.  Greta has worked in support for 35 years and has never experienced anything remotely like the Coronavirus pandemic.

She manages a supported living scheme in Windsor for adults with learning disabilities. At the Advance owned and managed property the Support team, led by Greta, provide 24/7 and sleep-in support, including personal care, to nine customers with varying needs. The service is registered with and inspected by the CQC and achieved an overall Good rating in 2018.

In this blog she talks a bit about the experiences of herself and her team during the Coronavirus outbreak. 

“Our aim during lockdown, like others, has been to keep staff and customers safe and healthy.  We have a couple of older customers who were shielding and others were very stoic about having to stay indoors during lock down.

I have been working at Osborne House in Windsor for over ten years and the team I work with have been here even longer.  Most of us don’t have young families to contend with which made our decisions during lockdown a little less complicated than for others.

We decided that each member of staff would be responsible for one particular task each such as doing the grocery shopping to limit our exposure to the general public.  Staff and customers had their temperatures taken each day to look for any early signs of the virus.  We’ve kept ourselves fit with games in the garden and by taking our daily walks as we live in such a beautiful area. 

Unfortunately we did have one member of staff who was potentially exposed to the virus as her flatmate tested positive.  Thankfully in the end her test came back negative.  While she was self-isolating myself and one of my support workers, Menika decided to move in to the scheme for a week to cover the various shifts.  This was the best way to reduce contact with more people and it was the most sensible thing to reduce risk to staff and other customers.

We have really pulled together as a team and have managed all the shifts ourselves, worked additional hours, and occasionally worked our days off so that we have not had to use agency cover during this time.  Like many other people, we are now all really ready for a break.

I would say that the experience has been really positive in many ways although we have had difficulties and losses.   It has been challenging to explain social distancing and the lack of friends and family visits to our customers but we have found ways for them to keep in touch with their loved ones.

Yet despite some of the challenges there have been some lighter moments. Walking through the park one day a customer said what’s that smell – it was newly mown grass.  The smell we usually notice is aviation fuel as we are near the flight path for Heathrow.  We have spent quality time with our customers finding out more about their families and lives.  Sometimes doing nothing gives you that space to reveal things you wouldn’t normally talk about.

I have also been overwhelmed by the random acts of kindness I’ve witnessed during lockdown.  One of them is about a gentleman we support called Anthony who lives in the community.  He was at Osborne House then moved to his own flat 20 years ago, which is great to see how his independence has grown, but we still support him with some daily living tasks.

Support worker, Doreen works with Anthony 12 hours a week and they always shop at the local Tesco. They were waiting in the queue when Anthony mentioned that his lawn mower had broken. Doreen said she would look for a gardener in the paper. A young man behind them in the queue said he was a gardener and would happily cut the grass for Anthony.

They exchanged numbers and he liaised directly with Anthony. The next time Doreen was at Anthony’s flat she noticed that the money for the grass cutting had not been taken.  She called the gentleman and he said I’ve seen you and Anthony walking about so many times, I’m local and happy to help out a neighbour, no charge.  There really are such kind people.

So looking forward to life out of lockdown we are taking small steps and being cautious about how much we do still.  Customers are getting used to the idea of wearing a face mask when they go out in public and are for the most part accepting of it.  They are looking forward to going back to their day centres and various activities and I would say most of the team here are looking forward to having a break and getting casual support back on the rota.

On reflection one of the biggest things I will take away from this experience is that we all now have a clear picture of what we need as opposed to what we want and what is important in life.  It’s given us time to just be in each other’s company and be flexible about our timings and what we do.  We have busy lives here at Osbourne House and there are always comings and goings with customers taking part in lots of activities.  Going forward we are going to set aside Saturdays to just see how the day unfolds.  No plans just see how the mood takes us, time to just be.”