Will care staff remain undervalued and underpaid?

Coronavirus crisis

by Colin Campbell                                                                                                                   Monday, April 6

WITH care homes in Inverness and elsewhere in the Highlands closed to all visitors many residents within them face a confusing and potentially depressing time.

care home
Care homes are closed, bringing very difficult times for residents, staff and relatives.

 If being a resident in a care home is not an appealing prospect at the best of times, it’s much less so when access to the outside world is cut off completely.

 Those working within the sector are trying to make life as normal as possible for residents, but that’s an uphill struggle. And the difficulties imposed by enforced separation works two ways, with relatives unable to gain access to see their old folk facing their own anxieties over the enforced separation.

 Last week a woman appeared at one Inverness care home wearing a face mask and protective clothing virtually from head to toe – as fully kitted out as anyone seen on the news bulletins in a hazardous environment dealing with the current emergency.

She had taken time and trouble to emphasise how aware she was of the coronavirus risk and obviously hoped it would make an impression on staff. She virtually pleaded for access to see an elderly relative, if only to put her head round his door for a minute and say a few words.

 But she wasn’t allowed in, regardless. In an extraordinarily difficult situation for all concerned, staff felt they had no option but to refuse entry. The no-entry rule had been established and if breached then other relatives, desperate to see their loved ones, could seek to get into the home also.

 Despite the rightful inevitability of the refusal, the stress involved for both staff and the prospective visitor was high and difficult to deal with. But as best efforts are made to ensure a care home functions as normally as possible, it has to be dealt with and absorbed, as work carries on.

 Staff rely on social media equipment to set up “face time” between residents and family members as often as possible, and that helps relieve the tensions. Never has the gadgetry of social media, so often used carelessly and unthinkingly by those most devoted to it, been put to better use.

 And the worry is that the total lockdown could last for several months, with no end currently anywhere in sight.The effect on vulnerable residents will in different ways take its toll.

 And on a daily basis hard-pressed care staff themselves have to deal with the same concerns as everyone else about the risks of catching the coronavirus outside work.

 Alongside hospital staff, care home staff are at the very top of the “essential worker” list. The difference is that they are generally underpaid and, in normal times, undervalued. On a daily basis they do physical work that is challenging, to say the least. Many people, quite frankly, wouldn’t have the stomach for it.

 The current emergency only adds to their burden. I know a number of people who work in the care sector and I’ve made the point a number of times before – they are not held in the regard that their exacting and onerous work deserves.

 When all this is over, will there be any fundamental rethink on how vital these people are, and any lasting appreciation of what they do? We’d like to think so, but who can tell?

 They do an extremely difficult job, and never more so than right now, and they do it for society on the cheap.

And for their dedication and their efforts, they deserve so much better.

Zooming in on family cheer amid the gloom

 Our Ross-shire correspondent writes:

CELEBRATION of a family birthday on Friday in the London area using the Zoom computer application, with visuals and sound, worked really well for me.

 I’m more a bumbling Captain Mainwaring of Dad’s Army type than an intrepid Captain James T. Kirk of Star Trek on the bridge of the trusted Starship Enterprise when it comes to modern technology and communications. 

 As a complete novice at this kind of thing I didn’t even know if I’d be able to link up properly, but it all went a treat. I admit I was rather pleased with myself.

 A physical get-together wasn’t possible for very obvious reasons. However, things clicked into place with remarkable smoothness at 11am as folk sitting in their own homes ‘gathered together’ for the birthday celebrations.  

 The first birthday of my great niece and the blowing out of the single candle on the cake was a great shared experience. The various guests appeared on the screen of my laptop in ‘boxes’, we introduced ourselves, chatted and the cake was cut. For me it really was a first time eye-opener of how computer technology can bring people together.

 With justified and deep concern about the spread of the coronavirus disrupting the lives of relatives and chums over an extended period of time, computers have a huge role to play and sadly perhaps that’s it’ll be for quite some time.

 The birthday celebrations were very much a case of one small step for mankind – and what felt like a giant leap for me!

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