IN the penultimate article of our special series ahead of Dementia Action Week, Courant reporter Georgia Langdon gains exclusive access to life in a care home during a pandemic. 

A CARE home manager described lockdown as “soul-destroying” for residents, families and staff.

Havendene Home, Prudhoe, provides residential care for the elderly, people with dementia and those with physical disabilities.

Alike many homes across the country, Havendene went into full lockdown before the official government announcement and today, has continued its strict infection controls.

“It was soul-destroying”, said registered manager Amanda Brooks. “No visitors allowed to come in, then they were allowed one visitor and then they were allowed three.

“For me as a manager, it was absolutely heartbreaking. If one resident had a brother and three sisters, how could I choose out of those four siblings which one couldn’t come in?

“Not being able to see loved ones affected them (residents) - especially the ones who suffer dementia, not being able to understand the reasons why they couldn’t see their family.

“We’re also such a close-knit home, giving someone a hug, giving them reassurance, and showing them affection, that was all taken away.”

The home had to rearrange its living space to allow for social distancing, which caused emotional and physiological distress for residents, Amanda said, with some people’s behaviour becoming increasingly challenging because of the change to routine.

Amanda added: “It was totally impossible to socially distance people with dementia at all times - they like to wander about.

“The hardest part about it was us not getting upset and emotional. For all we were, we couldn’t show that to the residents.

“I had staff in tears sometimes on a daily basis. We struggled but it was coming to work every day, putting that smile on your face and acting as normal as we could.

“We were all so tired, drained, run-down, working around the clock to ensure there was enough staff to meet the residents’ needs

“You had it in your head constantly, have I contracted it? Am I going to take it into the home? Has the home already got it? Am I going to take it home to my children?

“When we had a Covid outbreak, it was the worst two weeks of my life and we were one of the lucky homes.”