Staying connected during the pandemic
“Anywhere the struggle is great, the level of ingenuity and inventiveness is high.”
It’s an observation from noted economist Eleni Zaude Gabre-Madhin that relates to the world of finance.
It also describes how Carinity has worked to protect what is far more valuable than money – older residents in our communities – during one of the greatest challenges the global community has faced in our lifetime.
When the coronavirus pandemic reached Australia, the Federal Government introduced measures to help safeguard our most vulnerable, including seniors living in aged care, with restricted visitation.
The ingenuity of Carinity aged care staff, who collectively care for more than 1,000 seniors living in 11 communities across Queensland, came to the fore during COVID-19 restrictions.
“Carinity is about creating a sense of community for the people we care for. During the pandemic, the challenge has been to continue to ensure the wellbeing of residents while retaining that sense of community and maintaining their ability to stay connected with loved ones,” Carinity Aged Care Regional Manager Larissa Gear says.
“Enabling connectivity between residents and their family and friends during the period of enforced social distancing means Carinity staff have needed to be adaptable and innovative.
“That approach included using technology – while continuing personalised interactions residents enjoy.”
With necessity being the proverbial ‘mother of invention’, Carinity staff devised creative ways for residents to stay in touch with families. This included teaching residents to do video calls and creating ‘window chats’.
Window chats, which allow for face-to-face visits through windows while adhering to social distancing protocols, emerged at Carinity Karinya Place in Laidley soon after restricted visitation to aged care communities was introduced.
“Family members were very happy and really appreciated the opportunity to communicate with residents in this way. The residents were so excited they helped our activity coordinators by decorating the windows,” Residential Manager Tuttu Mathew says.
“There were a lot of bookings from the families and they loved the concept. In the month of April, we organised around 80 window chats on top of phone calls and video calls.”
Residents at Carinity Wishart Gardens in Brisbane, and their families, also embraced the innovative ‘window of love’ concept.
“We provided half-hour time slots for relatives to come and spend time at the window and chat via a phone system hook-up. We had full booking sheets each day. We also welcomed visits on special occasions such as birthdays and wedding anniversaries,” Residential Manager Mark Lister says.
“We ran our window of love in conjunction with our Skype and Facetime video call services which connects residents with their family members unable to visit, in particular relatives and friends who remain interstate due to border closures.”
Carinity aged care staff also taught residents, many of whom had not previously used technology such as tablet devices, to do live video calls so they could keep in regular contact with loved ones.
Pauline Molloy, who lives at Carinity Colthup Manor in Ipswich, was devastated when her sister passed away. As Pauline felt isolated from her family as she couldn’t attend the funeral due to COVID-19 restrictions, staff arranged a video stream of the funeral so Pauline could watch it live on her television.
“This meant the absolute world to Mum and to me as she felt like she was really there. Staff went out of their way to do this amazing act of kindness for us. I commend the staff for their compassion and support for my Mum and for keeping an eye on her,” Pauline’s daughter Jenni Molloy says.
With residents unable to attend services at the on-site chapel, Carinity Brookfield Green partnered with City Tabernacle Baptist Church to bring Sunday services to their bedrooms. Church members pre-record and edit the service and send the recording for broadcast on residents’ televisions.
At Carinity Shalom in Rockhampton, residents and staff made a large colourful banner featuring residents’ hand-prints and the words “We love you all”, a heartfelt message to relatives who were unable to visit them due to COVID-19 restrictions.
During the pandemic Carinity has also ensured the continuity of care for seniors receiving its in-home care service.
While some home care providers scaled back or ceased services due to COVID-19, Carinity continues to support older Queenslanders in their homes.
“In these uncertain times, the effects of social isolation can be particularly stressful for people living alone, including older members of the community. That is why Carinity Home Care continues to assist seniors to stay healthy and safe at home during the pandemic,” Manager of Carinity Youth and Community Services Janelle Heyse says.
Carinity Education has supported students needing to study from home during COVID-19. Youth workers regularly deliver ‘work from home’ packs to students – some who live 30km from school – to help them stay on track with their education.
As well as enabling students by providing access to the curriculum from home, schools gifted repurposed computers to students, delivered food packs to their homes, and supplied phone cards with contact numbers of support staff.
No matter the circumstances, Carinity staff endeavour to bring a smile to the face of the people they care for and support – often in ways beyond their job description.
Francesca Ruxton had not picked up her saxophone for 25 years but resumed playing the instrument to entertain residents at Carinity Brookfield Green aged care in Brisbane.
The Diversional Therapist performs “whatever the residents want to hear”, playing along to musical backing tracks she makes herself.
“I absolutely love seeing the reactions of residents to the music I perform. It can range from smiles and foot tapping to closed eyes and tears rolling down their cheeks,” Francesca says.
“Residents will tell me of songs that were played at their weddings, when they first met their future husbands/wives or at any time from their childhood. These songs encapsulate very important memories. The look of happiness on their faces is so rewarding.
“I love to bring joy to the residents. They are such a remarkable group of people and working with them is inspiring.”