Home from Home – During Covid

February 2020 was a positive time for the Home from Home service.  The groups were full, we were providing in house activities and linking in with the community.  This included a monthly lunch club, lunch at Cadger’s Brae Restaurant, walks, visiting garden centres and shops, runs in the car and for the men we supported they had previously spent many months visiting Queensferry and watching the bridge as it was built.  Home from Home was a hive of fun and activities, joint groups at holidays and times of sickness and meeting lots of friends.

By March 2020 we were informed that we would have to close and the country went into lockdown.  At that time we had no idea what would happen to the people we supported.  It was evident everyone was in shock however a plan had to be put together and while listening to the Government and Public Health we put together a strategy to support the service user and family.  The most vulnerable were lucky enough to receive a home visit however it became evident, very quickly, that nothing was the same as before.  Social distancing, wearing full PPE was not easy for anyone especially when it came to communication.  As we are all now aware masks are not good for anyone who has a hearing or memory impairment.  It was trial and error to ensure we could continue to support but also reduce anxiety for our service users who were used to sitting close, cuddles, positive touch and close face to face contact during conversations and discussions. 

The other service users were provided with regular phone calls.  As weeks went by service users began to forget the venue they had visited (some for many years), the people who supported them and the other service users they saw as friends.  The support was predominantly for the family member living with them.  They were struggling with the isolation, watching their loved one decline and become dependent and unsure what the future held.  We gave them the opportunity to off load to someone outside the family unit and say exactly what they thought without being judged.

It was a long difficult year.  We, as a team, learned a great deal.  Our service users and family were always our priority and we tried to do the best we could under very difficult circumstances.  We tried to remain positive and plan what we would do when we were given the go ahead to reopen.  As Home from Home is a unique service ensuring we could reopen safely and within Government and Public Health Guidelines was not an easy task however we did reopen April 2021 although on a reduced capacity.  We also provided home visits and telephone calls and continue to do this.  We sadly lost many service users due to Covid or failing health during our year closed.  They are sadly missed and will not be forgotten.  Each person had a valuable story which we all listened to and we enjoyed ensuring their love of music, playing dominoes, runs in the car or just enjoying the opportunity to eat with others was at the forefront of our support.  We have so many stories that we can recall about each person.  When we do we smile because JDI did make a difference for each of them.  We have the evidence that shows a small group environment works.

We are working hard to rebuild Home from Home.  Groups are reopened fully.  We still adhere to Government Guidelines but can now enjoy linking back in with the community although still not at the level we were February 2020.  The dedication of all Home from Home Carers remains incredible and they remain a valuable part of JDI.  I can not thank them enough for what they did during a very difficult and uncertain time and for the support they gave me.

We all look forward to rebuilding further and developing to ensure as many people as possible can access this unique, valuable service.  It has been operational for over 30 years but wouldn’t it be great if it was still around in another 30. 

Shirley MacDonald | Project Worker