Kevin Winch, franchise owner of Home Instead Senior Care
Our carers have been out there like lionesses, keeping a promise to look after hundreds of people across Greater Manchester in their own homes, and I couldn’t be more pleased with them.
It has been tough, there have been plenty of tears shed over the past few months as patients we’ve been looking after for years have unfortunately passed away, while an awful lot of our caregivers have also caught COVID from the clients they’ve nursed.
It’s been a dreadful year, but they’ve kept going, receiving glowing references from the families of clients they have helped keep out of hospital. For us, it’s not about the money, it’s when someone writes a letter that says: ‘my mother could not have had any better care in her final years.’
I believe the nature of care is going to change after this, because people don’t want to go into care homes. They’ve heard the risks on the news and they’re frightened. We’ve always looked after people with highly infectious diseases from MRSA to flu in their own homes, and we’ve never had a problem with infection control – and COVID has been no different.
Many of our carers have placed themselves in strict isolation away from family and friends, because we know just how vital it is to our clients. One of our clients was discharged from hospital in a very weak condition in June last year, so one of our caregivers practically moved in with her. She’s now made a full recovery, and you’ll see her happily sitting on her doorstep smoking a fag. You can’t stop her smoking at 90!
We’ve got ongoing demand for our services – my main challenge is ensuring when a new client approaches us, we have the right staff with the right level of skill to look after them in the long term. I have around 75 caregivers on the books, with a view to recruiting another 20 to 30 over the next six months. But in these in these conditions, it’s difficult to train them to the standards we require.
Our caregivers don’t wear any uniforms, so people don’t know they’re keyworkers. However during the Clap for Carers season, the residents of one Prestwich street worked out that one of my girls was looking after their elderly neighbour. She had slipped in to make his tea and put him to bed and when she came out, the whole road was there to applaud her. She was absolutely made-up – they don’t know how much that boosted her confidence.
Richard Wertheimer, business development manager at Dennis Gore Pharmacy
The whole team has worked incredibly hard – it’s been remarkable. Some staff were a bit hesitant at first, especially those who had to get the metro to work, so we had to be cautious. But we knew the general public needed us and we’ve done as much as we can to serve them, while keeping ourselves protected. For staff members with families, it was tough coming home to their families after working with ill people. Everybody was nervous, but we all got our jabs last month, which was a huge relief.
While the staff have been amazing, we must also thank the customers for being understanding and patient. For us all to remain safe, we only allowed two customers at a time into the store, so when the virus was at its peak, there was a queue outside like The Haçienda, which was fine when the weather was good!
The silver lining of the pandemic was that people got to know their neighbours and we developed a real community spirit. I’m part of a local Whatsapp group, and some of my neighbours who were self-isolating couldn’t see their parents, so I was bringing them vitamins, supplements and paracetamol.
There was a huge push for home delivery, and we had to take on extra drivers to help us cope with demand. Those who couldn’t get out would call Dennis and he’d offer them free advice on the products they needed to get better. Lately he’s been working until 10 o’clock at night.
Some products, such as PPE and thermometers were like gold dust. But as we’ve been in the trade so long, we had the contacts to be able to source the hard-to-find items, and when local charities desperately needed gloves and masks, we were able to donate them.
Here at the pharmacy, it feels like it’s been ‘us against the pandemic’, and in true wartime spirit, we’ve been here on the front line helping the community.