As part of the Coronavirus and Dementia in Care Homes Study, staff who work in care homes have been asked to share their experience of working in these settings since the Covid-19 pandemic started. Blogs, as the one below, have been writing by participants and are aimed at other direct care staff and families/relatives of people living with dementia.
Lockdown, not locked in
by Bridgette Davies
Globally, those of us who work with people with dementia, have now experienced living and coming to terms with daily limitations; many of us not coping! These limitations have been applied to how we work, rest and play and have affected how we engage with others, including those nearest and dearest to us, and the world around us. What have we learnt from this experience and how can this serve as a catalyst for change in the care of those living with dementia?
For many of us who work in long term care settings the experience of a national lockdown has opened a new opportunity for us to assess how well we are able to meet the needs of people living with dementia. Whilst we have endeavoured to do all we can in our pursuit to meet our service users’ needs, I suspect many of us have felt we have not quite hit the mark, some of us may even feel disillusioned with the systems in place that are intended to support and guide us. Many have had to concede that there is nothing more we could have done for our residents. And the reason for this? An absence of knowing what to do, which has filtered through from governmental to organisational level. My personal experience of the impact of the restrictions imposed in a care setting are not limited to people with dementia being confined to a unit, but confined to their rooms during the pandemic. This was not a premeditated act of an abuse of power to control people with dementia, but a response powered by the lack of systems in place to safeguard individuals. Even this lack of systems was not an intentional act of omission to undermine people with dementia, but stemmed from a lack of experience in dealing with such an unexpected life event.
As we reflect on the events of the past seven months, there are some pertinent questions that we have to consider to minimise, if not eliminate, the effect of the devastation caused to people with dementia should we experience a similar event in future. How likely is this to occur again? I think I can safely say: “very likely”, as, with globalisation, climate change, changes in the way food is produced and an increase in international travel, to name only a few, the stakes are becoming increasingly higher for more, and even more devastating, outbreaks.
Whilst I am in no position to offer a solution for the future, I believe that the process has to start with different role players, including people with dementia, coming together and evaluating how things were done this time and how it needs to be improved upon for the future. However, this assessment needs to start at individual level, examining our own practice, as it is essential that we take ownership for our actions. We can then progress to organisational, regional and ultimately government level, so that we and the vulnerable people whom we work with, can be instrumental in informing government of the systems required to ensure the wellbeing of those entrusted into our care. Only then will we be able to lock down effectively without creating the feeling of being locked in! “