Continuing elderly care during Covid-19 | Chris Clarke

| 28 April 2020

Summary:We recently spoke to Chris Clarke, Senior Housing with Support Manager about how his team has adapted to change during Covid-19, the creative technology that keeps them connected and how random acts of kindness have boosted team morale. Chris looks after a number of older person schemes based in Rushcliffe, Nottingham and his team continues to deliver crucial services in these challenging circumstances.

Could you please tell us a little about your role?

I have been in my current role for just over 18 months but been with MTVH for over 3 years now in Care & Support, exclusively in older persons accommodation. I manage a team of Housing with Support Managers who are all responsible for older persons housing schemes. My role involves managing and supporting my team and ensuring that our customers receive the best service possible. Our service supports and encourages our customers to live independently for as long as possible. We work very closely with our customers and those involved in their lives including families, carers, adult social care and local communities.

We support the customers around all housing issues and work closely with internal departments to do this.  We are also responsible for the customers communal areas around the housing schemes, this includes communal kitchens, lounges and laundry’s – these areas are a vital lifeline to some of our customers who may not be as able to access local communities to socialise.

Could you please tell us a little about Rushcliffe, staff and the schemes you’re responsible for?

Rushcliffe is an area in south of Nottingham just over Trent Bridge. We have the largest amount of older persons accommodation in one Borough, with over 1200 properties just for older people.

Within the area, there are lots of very small, quite isolated villages where we have some of our housing schemes, stretching out as far as Loughborough! Within Rushcliffe, we have a range of different housing schemes and property types – this includes 3 Extra care schemes, where MTVH are also the extra care provider. We also have some more dispersed housing schemes that consist of a community centre that is surrounded by bungalows and flats, therefore, have a large range of properties and schemes. There are 13 Housing with Support Managers in Rushcliffe that are all responsible for 1 or 2 housing schemes, our Registered Care Manager and her care team, a couple of scheme assistants and a Handyman who looks after a wide range of repairs.

What do you enjoy most about your role and has it changed since the Covid-19 outbreak?

I enjoy making a positive difference to people’s lives. This can range from signing up a new tenant to their ‘forever’ home or facilitating support to someone in their home to make their life easier. Unfortunately, since the Covid-19 outbreak, we are no longer on site, therefore visiting and engaging with our customers – which is a huge part of our role – has not been possible. Adapting to these changes has been difficult but the safety of our customers is our top priority. With that said, we are working from home and keeping daily phone contact with our customers, especially with our most vulnerable customers who may have little to no family.

We have received great feedback from our customers, many have told us how grateful they are and some have even said the phone calls ‘makes their day’, which is very rewarding to hear and reminds us that we’re still making a positive difference. Due to the virus outbreak our roles have delved into ‘crisis’ management as we need to ensure that our customers have everything they need. We are in contact with local volunteers located in various areas who are coordinating support for the most vulnerable by collecting shopping, prescriptions and carrying out daily ‘welfare’ checks. A huge positive outcome from this difficult time has been the community spirit which has shone through, even in the first couple of weeks of lockdown.

How do you stay connected with your team during this time?

We are communicating on various platforms daily and exploring new and creative channels to help us stay connected as a team. We have a WhatsApp group so we can all stay connected – there is always a jovial good morning message to wake up to from someone and that gets the conversations going for the day! We are also staying in contact via email and phone. I think it’s important to stay connected in groups but that 1-1 time on a phone call is also vital as it allows positive communication and creates motivation with our peers.

How do you ensure your team and customers stay safe during this time?

As I’ve already touched on, we are keeping as much phone contact with our customers as possible. Prior to the country going into ‘essential social distancing’, we all completed a risk assessment spreadsheet of our customers to identify their individual needs. This enabled us to initiate contact with them and establish the best support we could provide to them during this time.

Some of our customers have fantastic family support, however we have to consider what we need to put in place for those who don’t have that support. Our focus is ensuring we know our customers well and I’m pleased to say that is something we do extremely well.

We are able to connect our customers with local volunteers who can assist them with daily tasks such as essential shopping runs. This obviously takes the stress off the customers as some are finding this situation quite scary and don’t want to go out to the local shop. Keeping my team safe is also very important, they are all currently working from home and doing a fantastic job.

Everyone has some level of anxiety around this situation we are in, with both work and personal circumstances, so their welfare and mental wellbeing is an important factor. I also encourage them to stay updated with the organisation and to use available resources. I think as this situation develops and changes, we will find even more new ways to connect and keep on top of our mental welfare. It’s all about staying connected!

Do you have any memorable moments or stories which have occurred since the Covid-19 outbreak?

One carer at Spring Meadow was stopped on her way to work by a local resident who presented her with a box of chocolates to share with the rest of the care team at Spring Meadow. This was a gesture of goodwill just because they are working through this crisis and supporting the vulnerable residents at Spring Meadow.

The local volunteers at Cropwell Bishop (a very isolated small village) teamed up with the Housing with Support Manager at Rawlings Court, our older persons scheme. With her support, the volunteers delivered an Easter Egg to each resident in the scheme by leaving it at their front door.

These are just a couple of acts of kindness, and all the areas over Rushcliffe patch have small pockets of local volunteers who offer a shopping and medication collection service to all the vulnerable residents. I believe we will see less of a detrimental impact on the general and mental health of our customers because of it. It has also made our jobs a lot easier to do from home as we have that peace of mind that the support is available locally where the customers need it.

What have you personally found challenging during this time and how do you keep motivated?

Personally, I have found the last few weeks quite difficult. I have 3 children, aged 10, 8 and 16 months so keeping them occupied can be a challenge and tiring. My older 2 fully understand what is happening, but not my 16 month old! I have also very recently lost a family member, so knowing that we can’t currently give them the send-off we want to is very difficult and not being able to see and comfort other close family members is also very hard.

I’m a very ‘out and about’ and sporty person, I’m used to playing hockey every weekend and getting out and about with the kids, so I’m working on still staying healthy and active while being at home!

I’ve started doing daily exercise and got my children involved too! I’d recommend this to everyone as exercise is one of the best ways to maintain good physical and mental health. It will also motivate you around a working from home routine, eating healthy and general lifestyle. I think it’s all about people working out what is best for them to do to keep them motivated and upbeat. We need to do this to ensure we have a positive mindset and can provide support to those that need it the most.