Coronavirus COVID-19 Information
At Athena Healthcare Group, we always put the health and safety of our residents and staff at the top of our list of priorities. As you will know, the coronavirus, COVID-19, pandemic in recent times has brought substantial challenges. It is a worrying time for everyone. In order to seek to ensure the safety and protection of our residents, their well-being, and staff, we have put in place robust and stringent measures in response to the outbreak.
Update: 27th November 2020
We hope that you are all safe and well as the end of this second period of lockdown draws near.
You will have seen the further exciting news regarding more successful trials of COVID-19 vaccines. We were also very pleased to hear that the government continues to focus on care home residents and staff as very high priorities for vaccination, once testing had finished and licensing has been granted. It now does seem very likely that effective vaccines may be distributed in the short to medium term which will, obviously, be a huge relief for us all.
While we await further positivity on the vaccine front, we continue to apply stringent infection control measures to best protect all of our residents. We are excited, of course, by the seemingly imminent prospect of a return to proper, normal, visiting to our residents by their families and friends. Further patience is needed though – we are not quite there yet.
We are very pleased to announce that we have now installed non-contact visiting facilities. We have repurposed rooms in our lodges and have installed clear perspex screens. Starting from Wednesday, 2nd December, we will be allowing visits to our residents using those rooms. We will be operating visiting seven days a week and on a timed appointment only basis. We can allow up to two people to visit one of our residents at a time. Regrettably, as matters stand, there can still be no contact and you will be separated from your loved one by a screen. Unfortunately, visits will have to be fairly short, so that we can allow as many of our residents as possible to benefit from seeing their families.
We do hope that you will understand that visiting on this basis is subject to any local restrictions that may apply and that the safety of our residents, as a whole, is paramount. The situation in or around each of our Lodges may change and, consequently, we need to make it clear that we may have to change visiting policies at short, or no, notice. We will certainly be doing everything within our power to facilitate as many visits as possible.
As we are finalising our procedures for these visits, and ensuring that our staff are all fully briefed, we will be starting to accept requests for appointments from Monday 30th November, with visiting to begin on Wednesday 2nd December. We really look forward to welcoming you back into our Lodges and to seeing our residents have the benefit of seeing you again.
Please contact us from Monday 30th to book a visit!
Update: 20th November 2020
We hope all our residents’ families and friends, who may be reading this update, are safe and well during this continuing period of lockdown.
Obviously, recent news about vaccines to combat the spread of COVID-19 has been exciting. As you will have heard, the government intends to have care home workers and residents very high on its list of priorities to receive a vaccine when that can safely be rolled out. We wait, with bated breath, for further progress. We will keep you posted.
In the meantime, we have been listening to our residents’ relatives’ suggestions regarding what we can do to improve communications with our residents, in the absence of visiting. A family member of one of our Parklands Lodge residents suggested that we buy and install Facebook Portals to further improve on video calling. After successful trials, we now have Facebook Portals available in all of our Lodges and hope that you will be able to make use of those. Please contact the relevant Lodge to make arrangements.
On the topic of contacting our Lodges, we have noted that there were a few glitches with our phone system last week while we were switching to a new and improved provider. We apologise for that. Hopefully, all of the glitches are now resolved and you should have no further trouble. That being said, to improve access to your loved ones, can we ask that you call the specific community where they are resident, rather than the Lodge’s main “switchboard” number? Each community has its own direct dial number and using that should mean quicker response. If you don’t have the relevant community direct dial number, please ask and we will provide that immediately.
We continue to work hard on improving communications and access between our residents and their families. We have some exciting ideas which we will be trialling and implementing very soon. Given the immediate success of the suggestion of using Facebook Portals, we would like to invite our residents’ families and friends to give us any other suggestions or ideas which you think may be worth exploring. We will do anything we reasonably can to improve quality of life for our residents and all of you. Please email your ideas/suggestions to us at email@example.com.
Once again, we would like to extend our thanks for all of your support and the goodwill you have shown to our staff while they deal with the ongoing challenges. Our staff are working extremely hard to make sure that our residents are happy, safe and well and we thank them for all that they are doing.
Update: 13th November 2020
You may have seen or heard media reports earlier this week regarding prospects for new rapid testing for visitors to care homes, to facilitate visits to residents, for example, the BBC report at https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-54843815 .
While these are exciting possibilities, and ones which we are carefully monitoring, we must sound a note of caution and stress that they are very early stage prospects and will need to undergo detailed trials and consideration before they can become a practical reality. It is understood that the team working on early trialling expects to report to the government in the coming weeks, with further trials to take place, following which the government can be expected to issue further guidance and support. We will, of course, be watching with interest and hope that good news will stem from this. We will keep you posted.
In the meantime, we are continuing to work on our facilities to offer limited, safe, visiting to our residents and hope to have positive progress to report to you soon.
As always, thank you for bearing with us while we do all we can to protect your loved ones in our Lodges. We hope that you and your families are, and will remain, safe and well.
Update: 9th November 2020
On Thursday last week, 5th November 2020, new national restrictions for England came into effect. As you will be aware, these restrictions are seeking to control and reduce the further spread of the COVID-19 virus and apply until 2nd December.
As you know, from July onwards, we facilitated and actively promoted “garden visits” between our residents and their loved ones. Unfortunately, those had to cease when the Tier system came into effect and, now, due to the new national restrictions, not to mention impending winter weather, it seems that those will not re-start any time soon. Regrettably, we are presently unable to facilitate any visiting, save in end of life situations.
We know that it is very hard for our residents and their friends and families not to have visits, but we must do all we can to ensure our residents and staff are safe from the virus. Against that restriction, we recognise the need to weigh the benefits to our residents and their families that seeing each other bring and we are working hard to achieve the right balance. For example, we have upgraded our video conferencing technology and now have large screens, equipped with cameras, to allow you to have better video calls with your loved ones. We are working on other improvements to enable safe visiting and will keep you posted of developments as soon as we can.
In the meantime, we would like to give you our assurance that all of our stringent measures for infection control and or staff and resident health monitoring, as outlined in previous updates, remain in place. We have an ample stock of PPE.
Once again, we would like to thank our wonderful staff for all they are doing for the benefit of our residents, as well as thanking our residents and their families and friends for their understanding and support through these difficult times.
Update: 28th October 2020
As we are sure you are all aware the government has introduced the Tier system to determine levels of restrictions in different communities, we wanted to update you on what this means for us and our Lodges with regards to visiting your loved ones.
The ‘Medium’ COVID alert level, indicates visiting is allowed subject to the current conditions that are in place which enables outdoor visiting for 2 people from the same household, adhering to the 2 metres social distancing, and where we have designated visiting rooms indoors, these are still able to be used and accessed.
The ‘High’ and ‘Very High’ alert level, indicates visiting is no longer allowed unless it is for an essential visit for end of life.
We appreciate that this news is very difficult to hear, particularly when majority of our Lodges are in the ‘Very High’ areas. We hope you appreciate the reasoning behind us needing to follow the guidance, when our main responsibility is to keep our residents and staff as safe as possible, and we ask that you continue to support our teams in adhering to this.
We are preparing our Lodges for when we can allow indoor visits for our residents’ families and friends in a safe way and we look forward to welcoming you back into our Lodges to be with your loved ones.
Early in the spread of the virus, before there was a government requirement, we took steps to limit, and then to stop, non-essential visits into our homes. Regrettably, in line with current government advice, there has been no recent change to the situation and we continue to ask that we have no visitors to our homes. Of course, we are still ensuring that essential visits from medical practitioners are being made, observing strict infection control protocols.
We continue to deliver care to all of our residents in accordance with their care plans and to monitor their general health and wellbeing, with certain additional monitoring in respect of COVID-19 in line with Health England guidelines. As is always the case, should our staff identify when any resident becomes unwell, we will seek medical advice. Should there be any indication that a resident has COVID-19, that resident will be isolated for at least 14 days and treated with strict infection control measures, including the use of Personal Protective Equipment (“PPE”).
Of equal importance, we are closely monitoring the health of all of our staff. Any staff member with a temperature, or other symptoms, will not enter any of our homes and will self-isolate in accordance with public health guidance. Out of an abundance of caution, many of our staff have been through at least one period of self-isolation, either due to symptoms of their own or those of others with whom they have had contact.
Unfortunately, it is not presently possible for residents to go out and about, save for any necessary hospital appointments. Our staff will inform family members if a resident requires to attend hospital. Unfortunately, residents cannot be accompanied to hospital by either our staff or their family/friends.
As we cannot have any visitors, save for medical practitioners, we are not able to have entertainers/activity leaders come into our homes. Our staff are doing all they can to lead activities and keep our residents occupied.
We are aware of reports in the media regarding the care being given to residents in care homes. We would like to assure all of our residents and their families and friends that our staff are fully trained and have access to advice and assistance from staff across our group, should they need it. Our senior management team are working tirelessly to ensure that all staff “on the ground” are suitably supported. Our staff morale is excellent.
We are also pleased to confirm that we have supply of PPE and we follow or exceed best clinical practice, including government guidance, for its use.
We would like to again thank all of our residents and their loved ones for their understanding and support of the measures we have had to implement. We hope that we have reassured you that we are doing all we can to ensure our residents’ continued safety and wellbeing.
We would like to also thank all of our wonderful staff for working so hard, in these trying times, to combat the effects of COVID-19. We are very proud to have such an awesome team looking after our residents and are humbled by their dedication and tireless efforts in the face of serious adversity.