Sam, one of amazing Julia’s House nurses, shares her experience of looking after some of the most vulnerable children in our community during the COVID-19 pandemic...
Right now I’m often the only contact that a family has. That does feel a big responsibility. The families are often anxious and scared because their child is at such increased risk from COVID-19, so I go in and try to be calm and provide a distraction for them while everything else is so uncertain. They are really fearful.
Usually the families I visit would go out and about when I’m providing respite care but of course, they are all staying in now. So while my visit focuses on providing care for the children, I’m often providing advice, explanations and reassurance about the current Coronavirus situation for parents too. They’re keen to get a perspective from other Julia’s House families – what are they doing? Are they sleeping in the same rooms? Are they spending time with their siblings? It’s a very different time for our families right now, a scary time and I’m just trying to help them navigate through that. Our families know us so well and know we’ve always got their best interests at heart.
I am always conscious of infection control measures anyway as the children I care for are so vulnerable, but I am taking even more detailed measures now, based on the Government’s advice. I am handwashing, wearing gloves and aprons, using hand sanitisers and only touching the children as minimally as possible during my visits. This is so hard as of course they often want to be comforted. I’m also undertaking quite detailed screening of the families’ health, the day before I visit and when I arrive at a visit before going into homes. And I’m contacted before any sits to check that I’m feeling OK. It’s very detailed but necessary – the slightest infection has a huge impact on the children I look after and could easily send them straight to hospital or worse.
When I do visit I am conscious that our families are spending more time together than ever before. This is wonderful in some ways but does make life so intense for them in others. There’s very little respite for them and often the children’s behaviour becomes more intense. They also have more time to think and worry. Even just a few hours once a week has been such a welcome distraction for them - it helps stop them from reaching boiling point.
While for some families I’m doing more visits right now, a number have told us that they would prefer not to have visits as they are feeling so vulnerable. I know how heavily they rely on our care so this must be such a tough decision to make. If this happens with the families I usually visit, I do still stay in touch with them by ‘phone, text and email though. Also, I’ll offer to pick up medicines and supplies and whatever essential things they need, so they don’t feel totally alone.
We are ensuring as a care team we’re not feeling isolated too, as we’re so used to working as such a close unit. We’re all working from home now so are using technology like Zoom to stay in touch and support each other. The situation is changing every day and it’s been a very different way of working for me, I have to adapt what I’m doing all the time. I’m often undertaking more care to cover absences, so it is challenging and tiring, but I just want to be there as long as I can for our families. Their isolation and their challenges are so much harder.