The onset of the pandemic which hit the UK in February 2020 heralded unprecedented changes for many organisations especially those working with people face to face as we do at Darnall Dementia Group. Through the early, worrying days, when we knew that there was worse to come, and the figures for the spread of the disease indicated that we would inevitably be affected, to the day when we decided we would have to close our doors to keep everyone safe from the virus, we were concerned about the negative impact this would have on our attenders and their loved ones.
The risk of contracting the virus was high – that was clear. The risk to older people, many of whom were physically more vulnerable because of underlying health conditions was considerable. In addition, the death toll was rising fastest in that age group. We, and all the people concerned with protecting, supporting and caring for the attenders were worried.
To look at the picture as a whole, we had to take into account that there were also considerable risks to the attenders and their carers of being without the regular day care that they had come to rely on, enjoy and look forward to. This might mean a decline in mental health and well-being for both attender and carer, loss of time to themselves for both and the possible consequent loss of physical health and resilience.
The staff worked hard in the early days after the lock-down to establish methods of connecting with people which suited both attender and carer, and would provide some of the much needed relief and support that both rely on. Telephone calls, Face-time and video calls, Skype and Zoom – either one to one, or in groups, gradually have become the expected pattern of the week for many of the people we normally would expect to see in the Day Centre. For their carers, it has had the added advantage that they are able to be in touch with staff much more frequently than they would have been previously.
We are moving in to a new time of uncertainty, as the lock-down rules are eased. What does this mean for our attenders and their families and carers? What does the future hold for Day Care? Is there a possibility that normal service will be resumed – in the foreseeable future? By next year? ever?
Strenuous efforts are being made to ensure the sustainability of the work of the Group. Whether that be in ways we have been discovering in the past three months, or new ones we haven’t yet tried.
We are hopeful that we will continue to provide a service to those people who need it and who have demonstrated over the years how much it is appreciated and how much it is needed.
Below is a picture from a Face -Time meeting between the Day Centre Coordinator and a couple she is supporting during the Covid-19 crisis.