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News and Comment March 2020

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16 March - Care? What care? Some care workers do not know what care is

I can’t be the only septuagenarian looking after a nonagenarian in a separate household, there must be tens of thousands of us, so the more draconian isolation measures floated by the Government over the past 24 hours are alarming to say the least. If I am confined to barracks the old lady in East Ham almost certainly dies prematurely.

She is well stocked with food and cleaning commodities for the next two or three weeks and my last visit using public transport was a week ago, since then I have driven through Blackwall Tunnel four times. I don’t want to put the old lady at additional risk by using an overcrowded DLR but the big problem is the care agency. I simply cannot persuade them to instruct staff to wash their hands on arrival.

Those without the benefit of CCTV may be shocked if they could see how their loved one was being treated. I saw it at first hand on Saturday morning and I saw definite indications of the same thing on Sunday morning and Sunday evening. Among other tell tale signs the bars of soap were all bone dry.

The carer travels by bus from the previous appointment and immediately shakes the client’s hand on arrival. No hand washing. For intimate washing she dons gloves and when that is finished takes them off touching the external surface in the process. No washing which is pretty bad in normal circumstances and unforgiveable now.

Food is then prepared, sandwiches made for a mid morning break or cake cut for the afternoon. No washing.

Potentially dirty fingers are poked into the pill box and medication is placed in the palm of the carer’s hand and popped into the client’s mouth.

Then on the way out the client’s hand is shaken again.

The carer says she had had no instructions to do otherwise and doesn’t seem to have the sense to realise that her behaviour is wrong. Having very little understandable English exacerbates the problem.

A complaint to the care company draws their attention to the fact that if the client is infected there can only be one source and it will do their reputation no good at all. They do not respond and I really don’t know what to do about it.

How many other care companies are being similarly slip-shod when they are operating unseen?

For my part, some friends say my default position is self-isolation so my revised routine is not a great hardship. No pub quiz yesterday, no meeting with friends on a Thursday afternoon and no attending Council meetings. The one silly thing is that I have a routine visit to Queen Elizabeth Hospital on Friday. It could so easily be conducted by telephone or a one sentence letter but so far it seems that no one at QEH is interested in reducing their workload or the risk of infection.

Note: The above comment relates to a relief care worker. The regular one would happily adapt procedures if I asked her to but sadly she is attending to a dying mother far away.

 

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