Coronavirus COVID-19 Information
At Athena Healthcare Group, we always put the health and safety of our residents and staff at the top of our list of priorities. As you will know, the coronavirus, COVID-19, pandemic in recent times has brought substantial challenges. It is a worrying time for everyone. In order to seek to ensure the safety and protection of our residents, their well-being, and staff, we have put in place robust and stringent measures in response to the outbreak.
Update: 18th August 2021
As COVID-19 restrictions continue to be relaxed, it is pleasing to note that health authorities’ guidance regarding care home visiting is also relaxing. We want to enable as many of our residents as possible to have as many visits from friends and family as possible.
The latest government guidance continues to have residents entitled to nominate ‘named visitors’, the key difference being that there is now to be no limit on the number of ‘named visitors’ that a single resident may have. Further, there is no nationally set limit on the number of named visitors who can visit on a single day.
As before, residents may nominate an ‘essential caregiver’ who will be able to visit the resident, as will ‘named visitors’, the difference being that ‘essential care givers’ can continue to visit even during periods of outbreak in the Lodge, or periods of isolation (although not if the caregiver or resident is COVID positive).
Of course, our overriding duty is to seek to protect the safety of all of our residents and staff so, while we are relaxing our visiting policies, we must also continue to manage risks and need your help to do that. We note the following steps which you can take to help:
- Get vaccinated when you can; this is one of the best defences to combat infection, including significantly reducing transmission. We strongly recommend that visitors have 2 doses of vaccine before visiting;
- Do not visit if you are feeling unwell or have COVID symptoms;
- Wear a mask throughout your visit;
- Wash your hands with soap and water when you arrive at the Lodge;
- Most importantly, please limit close contract with residents and use whatever PPE the Lodge staff ask you to (and keep it on throughout your visit).
Although older government guidance suggests that it is appropriate for visitors to show a negative PCR test result, more recent local health authority guidance indicates that a negative LFT result is acceptable. Subject to visitors acting in compliance with the above, we will be happy to offer an LF test for any visitor to our Lodges. Obviously, a negative result will be needed before full admission. Essential caregivers have to comply with the same testing regime as our staff, which is more rigourous.
With regard to close contact during visits, please exercise caution; handholding should be fine, if hand washing has been done appropriately. Closer contact has higher risks, but even a brief hug (without face-to-face contact) between two double-vaccinated people should be fine. Please just exercise common sense.
Although there is no hard and fast limit on the number of ‘named visitors’ who may visit a resident in a single day, we do still need to ensure that we have facilities and staffing for visits, so need to continue with an appointments system and need to share visits around so that each resident gets a fair number of visits.
If you are not already a ‘named visitor’ for your resident family member/friend, please do contact the resident or a member of our staff to get that status.
Please note that there may be particular circumstances in individual Lodges, or the regions in which they are located, that may necessitate more stringent restrictions at short notice, or even no notice.
Please contact our staff to discuss visiting your family member/friend and to book an appointment.
Update: 15th June 2021
Yesterday, the Minister for Care announced certain easings of restrictions for care home residents. Full guidance is to be issued later this week, but we thought it would be helpful if we were to share the headlines. Although the guidance will, no doubt, contain much detail, we understand, from the Minister’s press release, that, in short:
- Residents will be able to spend time with family and friends away from care homes. Any such visits will need to be subject to separate risk assessment to ensure they are not high-risk. Visits away from the care home may include overnight stays and, again subject to risk assessment, the resident should not need to self-isolate upon their return to the care home.
- Every resident can nominate an “essential care giver” to provide additional support during visits. Essential care givers will be able to continue to visit even if there is a COVID-19 outbreak; and
- New residents, coming into care homes from the community, will no longer be required to self-isolate for 14 days. Any new resident from the community would be subject to an enhanced testing regime consisting of a PCR test before admission, a PCR test on the day of admission and a further PCR test 7 days later.
Although we don’t yet have the guidance, it seems, from the press statement and release, that these new easings are to take effect from 21st June and we are proceeding on that basis. Please do contact the relevant Lodge should you wish to discuss making arrangement for an “out of Lodge” visit with your resident family member. Please also speak with our staff regarding nomination of a single “essential care giver”. We are thrilled that new residents will be able to join the communities in our Lodges with much less inconvenience and disruption. We are very much looking forward to welcoming them in the coming weeks.
We hope that all of our residents’ families and friends are safe and well and join with us in being cautiously optimistic that the advance toward normality is now gathering pace.
Update: 14th May 2021
We are very pleased to acknowledge the most recent Government guidance, which applies from Monday 17th May, 2021. The headline news in this new guidance is that care home residents may now nominate up to 5 named visitors, up from 2, as is presently the case, only 2 can visit at any one time. In addition, self-isolation will no longer be required following visits to GPs, dentists and other day centres. We are also directed that visits will only pause for a minimum of 14 days following an outbreak of Covid-19, rather than the 28-day pause which currently applies.
Although all other guidance, such as specified in our update of 9th May, below, will continue to apply, these new guidelines represent a further step forward toward normality and we are delighted to implement this new guidance from Monday. Please be in touch with your relevant Lodge if your loved one wishes to nominate more named visitors and to arrange for visits in the usual way.
Update: 9th May 2021
We are thrilled to advise that, in accordance with recent Government and public health guidance, we are now able to facilitate trips by our residents out of our Lodges. In short, our residents can go out with their nominated visitors or a member of our care staff.
As is ever the case, trips/visits out of care homes are subject to many Government/public health strict conditions. We have prepared a “Covid out of care home visiting policy” which our staff will follow. Copies of that policy are available on request. Most significantly among these conditions are that visits/trips out of our Lodges can only be made, following upon an individual risk assessment and with the resident’s consent, where the resident is accompanied by one or both of their nominated visitors or a member of our care staff. Our resident, and any “hosts” for a trip/visit, will also need to have a Lateral Flow Test and return a negative result before a trip/visit can go ahead. Ideally, trips/visits should be to spend time outdoors. If indoor visits are to be made, then there would be a requirement for the resident to isolate for 14 days following their return to the Lodge.
Our staff will be very pleased to discuss “out of Lodge” trips/visits with you, and to assist with appropriate planning. We should be very grateful if you would recognise that visits/trips such as this are new and the conditions we are under are stringent. Please understand each Lodge, and the area they are in, may have different circumstances within which they are constrained to work and that not all visits/trips that are proposed may be practicable. That said, our staff will do all they reasonably can to facilitate our residents return to something approaching normality!
Update: 23rd April 2021
As you will expect, we have been continuing to do all that we can to ensure the safety and comfort of our residents. Single nominated visitor arrangements have been going well and we are delighted to see the positive effect these visits have been having on the morale of our residents.
In line with government guidance, from and after 12th April 2021, we will be supporting visits from a second regular visitor, along with the existing nominated individual. Furthermore, visitors who are parents can visit with their babies or very young children, who will not be counted as one of the two nominated visitors.
All other guidance for visiting in our Lodges remains the same; visitors will be tested using a lateral flow test (LFT) and will need to wear personal protective equipment during the visit. Of course, all other infection control measures (such as hand washing) must be followed. Our staff will be pleased to provide guidance throughout.
We are very aware of the benefits to our residents that visits from families and friends bring, so our visiting rooms with Perspex screens will also continue to be available, in addition to the two nominated visitors. End of life visiting remains as per our previous policies.
Please do be in touch with our Lodges to arrange nomination of the two visitors and to book appointments for visits. Regrettably, we are not able to accommodate visits which have not been pre-arranged.
We are also pleased to tell you that, following extensive risk assessment, we are now able to once again accommodate visits to our Lodges by the marvellous visiting hairdressers our Lodges have arrangements with. We do hope and expect that our residents will once again enjoy being able to have their hair done. Another very welcome step towards normality! You can be assured that very stringent measures have been put in place to protect our residents, including PCR and LFT testing of the hairdressers, use of PPE, sterilisation of tools between each client etc.
We hope that all the families and friends of our residents are keeping safe and well and join with us in being optimistic about the eventual return to something like normal! We look forward to seeing many of you in our Lodges in the coming weeks.
Update: 23rd February 2021
We were encouraged, as we’re sure were you, to hear of the government’s plans for the country easing its way out of lockdown and, ultimately, out of restrictions altogether. Clearly, as we have all expected, the vaccination programme has been, and will be, key in allowing such easing. We are pleased to say that virtually all of our residents, and the great majority of our staff, have had their first dose of vaccine and, consequently, the risk posed to all of them by the virus is greatly diminished.
We are always conscious that our first priority must be to protect the health and safety of all of our residents and staff however, we are keen to get visiting back to being as close to normal as possible. As matters progress from now into March and beyond, we are continuing to assess the risks posed to our residents and staff by the virus. Assuming that infection rates continue on their present, steep, downward trajectory, and assuming that vaccination rates continue to increase, again steeply, we do hope and anticipate that we will be able to offer the government’s mooted single designated visitor, in person, one-to-one visits, without screens but utilising full PPE. We would hope that, in the medium term even that single person restriction, and the requirement to use PPE will fade away.
Of course, we will keep you advised of developments. In the meantime, please do not hesitate to be in touch with the managers of our Lodges who will be able to provide you with the latest, Lodge specific, information.
Update: 22nd January 2021
As you know, national lockdown continues and there is little sign of restrictions being eased any time soon. We are continuing to monitor and abide by relevant guidance.
In more positive news, the residents in the majority of our Lodges have now received their first dose vaccination and many of our staff have also been vaccinated. Regrettably, we are still awaiting vaccinations for residents and staff in some of our Lodges and for staff in some Lodges where residents have already been vaccinated. We are pressing for all of our residents and staff to be offered vaccinations as soon as possible.
We are hopeful that the government’s drive to continue to increase vaccinations will soon result in full and consistent coverage for all of our staff and residents. We will keep you posted.
We hope that you and yours are staying safe and well and seeing the glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel that the vaccination roll-out promises to offer.
Update: 8th January 2021
We would like to wish all of the families and friends of our residents a happy new year and to express the hope that 2021 will be brighter than 2020.
Regrettably, national lockdown continues, and our suspension of all visiting continues with it. Although we have been carefully monitoring government guidance, we regret to say that we are seeing mixed messages and guidance from central and local authorities. We are continuing to take a “safety first” attitude in the face of the ferocious spread of the new variant of covid-19. We believe that our suspension of visiting is prudent and cautious and is what any reasonable person would do to protect vulnerable people, such as our residents. Although distressing for many of you, we hope we can continue to count on your support.
We do hope that the media reporting of impending increased rates of vaccination is accurate and that all of our residents and staff will be offered a vaccine soon. That is, perhaps, the “light at the end of the tunnel” and we will, of course, keep you posted of developments. Until such time as the lockdown is lifted/eased and the vaccination programme is much further progressed, we do not anticipate that our policy on visiting will change.
Update: 30th December 2020
We were delighted to see so many of you in our Lodges for the screened visits. We are so pleased to be able to offer the facilities to allow that. Our residents had a lovely time over their Christmas dinners and the mood in our Lodges was buoyant and joyful indeed, albeit tinged by sadness at the current travails we are all going through.
We are sure that you, like we, have been watching the news with great alarm. The new variant of covid-19 certainly seems to be spreading almost exponentially. We are very conscious of the increased threat the new variant is causing and, with the safety of our residents and staff as top priorities, have been forced to the difficult decision to suspend all visiting with immediate effect.
We realise that this will be distressing news for many of you, particularly those who had been hoping to have a screened visit this week or next, but we hope you will understand and support our decision as being in the best interests of all residents including your loved ones.
Although we would love to be more positive and express hope that threats / restrictions will be lifted soon, given the rising infection numbers and spread of the new variant, we must be ultra-cautious and will only lift visiting restrictions when we are confident that it is safe to do so.
We will, of course, be continually monitoring government guidance and will keep you posted of any developments.
Update: 14th December 2020
We are very pleased to advise that a number of our staff have now received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. We are working with our local health authorities toward our residents being offered vaccination and, hopefully, that will happen soon. We will keep you posted.
In the meantime, we are delighted to say that all of our Lodges now have screened visiting facilities and we will do all we can to facilitate timed visits for you and our residents, using those facilities. It has been lovely to have so many of our residents see their loved ones in the last few weeks and we hope that you will call us to book visiting timeslots soon.
We hope that you are all safe and well and look forward to seeing you in our Lodges for screened visits soon.
Update: 4th December 2020
It has been wonderful, at last, to welcome visitors into our Lodges for screened visits! We are thrilled to report that the visits have been going ahead since Wednesday and have been very successful. We hope that you have been able to make suitable arrangements to see your loved one. We are very much looking forward to welcoming more of you in the coming weeks; please call us to book a timeslot. Hopefully, it will be possible to relax visiting restrictions fairly soon and we will be doing so as it becomes safe.
Some of our residents’ families and friends have been asking about Lateral Flow Testing (“LFT”), which the government has mooted as being of use to facilitate care home visiting. We are having discussions with our relevant local authorities about the efficacy of LFT and when staff training and equipment for effective testing might be available. We will keep you posted with any developments.
The exciting news of the week has been, of course, the approval of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and its apparently imminent distribution, with care home residents and staff being, we understand, “first in the queue” to receive that. We will be liaising with our local health authorities about their plans to provide vaccinations for our residents and staff and will be pressing for that to be progressed as quickly as possible. Of course, vaccination will be optional and we will be asking all of our residents, or their representatives, whether or not they wish to receive that.
We hope that you are all safe and well and that the new tier system isn’t causing you too much inconvenience.
Update: 27th November 2020
We hope that you are all safe and well as the end of this second period of lockdown draws near.
You will have seen the further exciting news regarding more successful trials of COVID-19 vaccines. We were also very pleased to hear that the government continues to focus on care home residents and staff as very high priorities for vaccination, once testing had finished and licensing has been granted. It now does seem very likely that effective vaccines may be distributed in the short to medium term which will, obviously, be a huge relief for us all.
While we await further positivity on the vaccine front, we continue to apply stringent infection control measures to best protect all of our residents. We are excited, of course, by the seemingly imminent prospect of a return to proper, normal, visiting to our residents by their families and friends. Further patience is needed though – we are not quite there yet.
We are very pleased to announce that we have now installed non-contact visiting facilities. We have repurposed rooms in our lodges and have installed clear perspex screens. Starting from Wednesday, 2nd December, we will be allowing visits to our residents using those rooms. We will be operating visiting seven days a week and on a timed appointment only basis. We can allow up to two people to visit one of our residents at a time. Regrettably, as matters stand, there can still be no contact and you will be separated from your loved one by a screen. Unfortunately, visits will have to be fairly short, so that we can allow as many of our residents as possible to benefit from seeing their families.
We do hope that you will understand that visiting on this basis is subject to any local restrictions that may apply and that the safety of our residents, as a whole, is paramount. The situation in or around each of our Lodges may change and, consequently, we need to make it clear that we may have to change visiting policies at short, or no, notice. We will certainly be doing everything within our power to facilitate as many visits as possible.
As we are finalising our procedures for these visits, and ensuring that our staff are all fully briefed, we will be starting to accept requests for appointments from Monday 30th November, with visiting to begin on Wednesday 2nd December. We really look forward to welcoming you back into our Lodges and to seeing our residents have the benefit of seeing you again.
Please contact us from Monday 30th to book a visit!
Update: 20th November 2020
We hope all our residents’ families and friends, who may be reading this update, are safe and well during this continuing period of lockdown.
Obviously, recent news about vaccines to combat the spread of COVID-19 has been exciting. As you will have heard, the government intends to have care home workers and residents very high on its list of priorities to receive a vaccine when that can safely be rolled out. We wait, with bated breath, for further progress. We will keep you posted.
In the meantime, we have been listening to our residents’ relatives’ suggestions regarding what we can do to improve communications with our residents, in the absence of visiting. A family member of one of our Parklands Lodge residents suggested that we buy and install Facebook Portals to further improve on video calling. After successful trials, we now have Facebook Portals available in all of our Lodges and hope that you will be able to make use of those. Please contact the relevant Lodge to make arrangements.
On the topic of contacting our Lodges, we have noted that there were a few glitches with our phone system last week while we were switching to a new and improved provider. We apologise for that. Hopefully, all of the glitches are now resolved and you should have no further trouble. That being said, to improve access to your loved ones, can we ask that you call the specific community where they are resident, rather than the Lodge’s main “switchboard” number? Each community has its own direct dial number and using that should mean quicker response. If you don’t have the relevant community direct dial number, please ask and we will provide that immediately.
We continue to work hard on improving communications and access between our residents and their families. We have some exciting ideas which we will be trialling and implementing very soon. Given the immediate success of the suggestion of using Facebook Portals, we would like to invite our residents’ families and friends to give us any other suggestions or ideas which you think may be worth exploring. We will do anything we reasonably can to improve quality of life for our residents and all of you. Please email your ideas/suggestions to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Once again, we would like to extend our thanks for all of your support and the goodwill you have shown to our staff while they deal with the ongoing challenges. Our staff are working extremely hard to make sure that our residents are happy, safe and well and we thank them for all that they are doing.
Update: 13th November 2020
You may have seen or heard media reports earlier this week regarding prospects for new rapid testing for visitors to care homes, to facilitate visits to residents, for example, the BBC report at https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-54843815 .
While these are exciting possibilities, and ones which we are carefully monitoring, we must sound a note of caution and stress that they are very early stage prospects and will need to undergo detailed trials and consideration before they can become a practical reality. It is understood that the team working on early trialling expects to report to the government in the coming weeks, with further trials to take place, following which the government can be expected to issue further guidance and support. We will, of course, be watching with interest and hope that good news will stem from this. We will keep you posted.
In the meantime, we are continuing to work on our facilities to offer limited, safe, visiting to our residents and hope to have positive progress to report to you soon.
As always, thank you for bearing with us while we do all we can to protect your loved ones in our Lodges. We hope that you and your families are, and will remain, safe and well.
Update: 9th November 2020
On Thursday last week, 5th November 2020, new national restrictions for England came into effect. As you will be aware, these restrictions are seeking to control and reduce the further spread of the COVID-19 virus and apply until 2nd December.
As you know, from July onwards, we facilitated and actively promoted “garden visits” between our residents and their loved ones. Unfortunately, those had to cease when the Tier system came into effect and, now, due to the new national restrictions, not to mention impending winter weather, it seems that those will not re-start any time soon. Regrettably, we are presently unable to facilitate any visiting, save in end of life situations.
We know that it is very hard for our residents and their friends and families not to have visits, but we must do all we can to ensure our residents and staff are safe from the virus. Against that restriction, we recognise the need to weigh the benefits to our residents and their families that seeing each other bring and we are working hard to achieve the right balance. For example, we have upgraded our video conferencing technology and now have large screens, equipped with cameras, to allow you to have better video calls with your loved ones. We are working on other improvements to enable safe visiting and will keep you posted of developments as soon as we can.
In the meantime, we would like to give you our assurance that all of our stringent measures for infection control and or staff and resident health monitoring, as outlined in previous updates, remain in place. We have an ample stock of PPE.
Once again, we would like to thank our wonderful staff for all they are doing for the benefit of our residents, as well as thanking our residents and their families and friends for their understanding and support through these difficult times.
Update: 28th October 2020
As we are sure you are all aware the government has introduced the Tier system to determine levels of restrictions in different communities, we wanted to update you on what this means for us and our Lodges with regards to visiting your loved ones.
The ‘Medium’ COVID alert level, indicates visiting is allowed subject to the current conditions that are in place which enables outdoor visiting for 2 people from the same household, adhering to the 2 metres social distancing, and where we have designated visiting rooms indoors, these are still able to be used and accessed.
The ‘High’ and ‘Very High’ alert level, indicates visiting is no longer allowed unless it is for an essential visit for end of life.
We appreciate that this news is very difficult to hear, particularly when majority of our Lodges are in the ‘Very High’ areas. We hope you appreciate the reasoning behind us needing to follow the guidance, when our main responsibility is to keep our residents and staff as safe as possible, and we ask that you continue to support our teams in adhering to this.
We are preparing our Lodges for when we can allow indoor visits for our residents’ families and friends in a safe way and we look forward to welcoming you back into our Lodges to be with your loved ones.
Early in the spread of the virus, before there was a government requirement, we took steps to limit, and then to stop, non-essential visits into our homes. Regrettably, in line with current government advice, there has been no recent change to the situation and we continue to ask that we have no visitors to our homes. Of course, we are still ensuring that essential visits from medical practitioners are being made, observing strict infection control protocols.
We continue to deliver care to all of our residents in accordance with their care plans and to monitor their general health and wellbeing, with certain additional monitoring in respect of COVID-19 in line with Health England guidelines. As is always the case, should our staff identify when any resident becomes unwell, we will seek medical advice. Should there be any indication that a resident has COVID-19, that resident will be isolated for at least 14 days and treated with strict infection control measures, including the use of Personal Protective Equipment (“PPE”).
Of equal importance, we are closely monitoring the health of all of our staff. Any staff member with a temperature, or other symptoms, will not enter any of our homes and will self-isolate in accordance with public health guidance. Out of an abundance of caution, many of our staff have been through at least one period of self-isolation, either due to symptoms of their own or those of others with whom they have had contact.
Unfortunately, it is not presently possible for residents to go out and about, save for any necessary hospital appointments. Our staff will inform family members if a resident requires to attend hospital. Unfortunately, residents cannot be accompanied to hospital by either our staff or their family/friends.
As we cannot have any visitors, save for medical practitioners, we are not able to have entertainers/activity leaders come into our homes. Our staff are doing all they can to lead activities and keep our residents occupied.
We are aware of reports in the media regarding the care being given to residents in care homes. We would like to assure all of our residents and their families and friends that our staff are fully trained and have access to advice and assistance from staff across our group, should they need it. Our senior management team are working tirelessly to ensure that all staff “on the ground” are suitably supported. Our staff morale is excellent.
We are also pleased to confirm that we have supply of PPE and we follow or exceed best clinical practice, including government guidance, for its use.
We would like to again thank all of our residents and their loved ones for their understanding and support of the measures we have had to implement. We hope that we have reassured you that we are doing all we can to ensure our residents’ continued safety and wellbeing.
We would like to also thank all of our wonderful staff for working so hard, in these trying times, to combat the effects of COVID-19. We are very proud to have such an awesome team looking after our residents and are humbled by their dedication and tireless efforts in the face of serious adversity.