Sam, one of amazing Julias House nurses, shares her experience of looking after some of the most vulnerable children in our community during the COVID-19 pandemic...

Right now Im 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 Im providing respite care but of course, they are all staying in now. So while my visit focuses on providing care for the children, Im often providing advice, explanations and reassurance about the current Coronavirus situation for parents too. Theyre keen to get a perspective from other Julias House families – what are they doing? Are they sleeping in the same rooms?  Are they spending time with their siblings? Its a very different time for our families right now, a scary time and Im just trying to help them navigate through that. Our families know us so well and know weve 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 Governments 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. Im also undertaking quite detailed screening of the familieshealth, the day before I visit and when I arrive at a visit before going into homes. And Im contacted before any sits to check that Im feeling OK. Its 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. Theres very little respite for them and often the childrens 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 Im 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, Ill offer to pick up medicines and supplies and whatever essential things they need, so they dont feel totally alone.

We are ensuring as a care team were not feeling isolated too, as were so used to working as such a close unit. Were 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 its been a very different way of working for me, I have to adapt what Im doing all the time. Im 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.

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