Since first arriving on the shores of the UK, COVID-19 has dominated the consciousness of the care home sector. From early March, we understood the threat that this novel virus posed to older people, and the industry responded by mounting a valiant effort to protect those who live, work and breathe adult social care. However, with infection rates now decreasing, hospitalisation rates falling and the number of those who have received their first dose of a vaccine steadily increasing, normality is slowly but surely coming back into focus. But after a year of COVID-19 weighing heavy on the minds of those who work on the front lines of this sector, we must consider how this distressing year could leave an enduring mark on these heroic team members.
At Gracewell Healthcare, we recognise that these extraordinary circumstances demand an equal reaction to safeguard the emotional wellbeing of our team members. In response, we’re rolling out enhanced resilience and mental health training for each of our care homes’ General and Deputy Managers. This training is giving our care home leaders vital knowledge on how to recognise the signals and symptoms of mental health illnesses, such as anxiety and depression, and how to support those team members who may be suffering. This learning is also being consolidated by the extensive use of case studies to give our care home leaders a genuine insight into how mental ill-health can present itself in many ways.
We’re also going one step further to train Mental Health First Aiders within each of our 46 care homes and within our Support Office. These trained team members will offer a dedicated point of contact to support those who are experiencing issues within their emotional wellbeing. What’s more, we’re drawing these First Aiders from within our existing pool of team members who already have a personal understanding of their colleagues and are a familiar face to many. And, to protect these First Aiders from feeling overwhelmed in their new roles, we’re setting up an internal Network where they’ll be able to give and receive support from each other.
Technology can also play an important role in supporting team members’ wellbeing within work. With this understanding, we’re delighted to utilise the Aviva Wellbeing mobile app to help our team members lead their best lives. This app offers a valuable resource to help our team members reach their wellbeing goals and become healthier and happier. These initiatives, along with numerous others, are just part of our commitment to prioritise the wellbeing of our colleagues so they can continue to work within welcoming, purposeful and supportive environments.
As we reach the one-year anniversary since the national lockdown, the sector is in a stronger position than many might have predicted. But we must recognise that this strength has been built on the sheer hard work of team members which may have come with an unseen emotional cost. Yet, a year from now, I believe the sector can grow further and take positive learnings from the pandemic, but only by prioritising the wellbeing of those we have so relied on within this outstanding industry.
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