I was recently speaking to a dear friend who is also a care home manager. She was explaining the impact of COVID on her team.
Just like many other care and nursing services over the last year they had been running just to keep up. They have had COVID within the home which has caused them to focus all of their attention on the clinical care needs of some very frail people. In addition, they have experienced the difficulties familiar to many care homes; with shortages of supplies, no relatives visiting the home, and constantly having to cover extra shifts. As a result, the team is worn out.
Importantly, whilst their attention has been concentrated on these areas it is no surprise that they had forgotten the importance of looking after themselves, taking time for personal reflection, taking proper breaks, acknowledging the value of laughing and crying together. In essence using the attachments, developed from a shared work experience, for the benefit of mutual support.
My friend said “the joy has been sucked out of us. Part of the problem is people having to be isolated in their rooms or in specific areas of the home”. This makes it very difficult to engage meaningfully with everyone. She is worried that her team are facing burnout.
My friend’s care home isn’t alone in their sadness. I have heard similar stories from other home managers. Some are at breaking point and yet they must go on. How disillusioned they must feel after all the work they have been doing to strengthening the quality of care and improve the lives of people living in care homes.
How can we help managers to bring the joy back into their homes?
Every ending is a new beginning and although the pandemic hasn’t yet ended, we can try and help all practitioners to take a breath, refocus and restore the wellbeing within our care homes.
The strong bonds between team members and people living in the homes are an important part of care home life. These bonds set apart the `home’ from the `institution’. Making the relationships work requires good team morale. That requires our teams to feel valued and appreciated.
Acts of appreciation however small can be powerful. They can mean the difference between walking out of the building at the end of the day with shoulders slumped or walking out with a smile on our faces. Knowing we are cared for and that our contribution is valued is so important.
If you are reading this blog can you relate to this experience? What advice can you give to care practitioners to help keep the joy in their work and in care homes?
`Each of us wants to know that what we are doing matters.’ Styles of appreciation that what we are doing matters are personal to each of us, gifts, flowers, smiles, thanks, or personal time. Whatever form of appreciation `strengthening the emotional work climate’ can repair the damage (Chapman and White p18, P138).
Chapman G & White P (2019). The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the workplace. Empowering Organisations by Encouraging people. Northfield Publishing. Chicago
Published January 2nd, 2006 by Bantam.