Caring for elderly people in their own home now much more popular

Image above: Carere holds hand of an elderly person

Home Instead Chiswick suddenly very much in demand

During 2020 ‘an extraordinary number’ of excess deaths in care homes were caused by Covid.

In the first wave 19,286 care home resident deaths were recorded between mid-March and mid-June where the coronavirus was mentioned. During the second wave, between 31 October and 5 February2021, there were a further 16,355 Covid deaths registered in care homes. According to the Nuffield Trust, these figures are probably an underestimate, as there was limited testing available at the start of the pandemic.

Care homes were not places where anyone wanted their loved ones to be. As relatives looked round for other solutions, the Chiswick office of Home Instead found it hard to keep up with the sudden increase in the demand for their services.

“A lot of people tried to get out of care homes last year, or didn’t want to go in” says Domizia Conti, assistant manager of Home Instead Chiswick.

“Most people would prefer to live in their own home and die there” says Domi, even without a raging pandemic. (She’s long since given up expecting English people to pronounce her Italian name.)

Providing care to enable people to remain independent and stay in their own homes

‘Home instead’ does what it says on the tin. They provide carers to come into a person’s home to provide them with the necessary support so they can continue to live in their own home rather than go into care.

What’s good about Home Instead is that they are able to tailor their service to the precise needs of the client. That might mean a cup of tea and a chat over a game of Scrabble and accompanying the client to the local shops. It might mean managing the diet of someone with diabetes, or changing a colostomy bag.

“We go and see the client and design a care plan. If the client is very independent and just has trouble putting on their socks and carrying the hoover upstairs, we’ll put their socks on and take the hoover up for them” says Domi.

“If the client has advanced dementia we will help with most things – get them up, washed and dressed, put on creams, give them breakfast and their medication, go out for a walk with them, do a bit of shopping, cook lunch… We’ll look after them.”

Before Covid they used to accompany clients to museums and galleries. During Covid they have found themselves taking part in exercise classes with their clients. They visit Kew Gardens and help with cleaning and gardening.

“The aim is to help people be independent, not take their independence away from them” says Domi.

“Maybe someone can’t do their laundry and cleaning any more, but they like folding the washing, so we’ll do that together”.

Very proud of Covid safety record

She is very proud of their Covid security record over the past year. They have around 60 clients, who are mostly over 80, and the only two to catch Covid did so when they went to stay with relatives for Christmas. Neither did any of the office staff catch it.

“Some people on the staff had it, mostly people who had kids, but nobody passed it on to any of their clients or co-workers.

“At the first sign of symptoms they took a test straight away and isolated”.

Care work is not well paid and as is typical in the sector, Home Instead staff are on zero hours contracts, but they pay their staff for their normal number of hours if they have to isolate.

“You don’t go into care if you want money” says Domi.

“People do it because they want to do something meaningful. Our best carers are people who have retired from other jobs. They still want to do something locally, but they want it to be meaningful.

“One carer used to run a warehouse and she loves how different it is being able to spend time with people and make a difference to their lives”.

Typically carers stay with Home Instead Chiswick for at least a year, some even four or five years. They have quite a few young people working with them while they’re at university. I pointed out that some people work as carers because they have few other options.

“Those are not the ones we’re looking for” says Domi.

Home Instead Chiswick are very choosy about their workers. It’s not unusual for them to get 100 applicants a week. Last year people worked for them while they were on furlough from another job. Many are seeking work now because the pandemic cost them their previous job.

Perhaps surprisingly, Brexit hasn’t made it difficult to recruit, even though the majority of their workforce are from EU countries.

Typically Home Instead Chiswick interview ten people a week; of those they will choose five people for training every fortnight. Not all those they choose make it through the training, as they’re looking for people with the right commitment and attitude as well as ability.

Images above: Domizia Conti and Maddy Alemayehu, Home Instead Chiswick

Nurses who like to sit and chat

Both Domi and Maddy Alemayehu, Director of the Chiswick office, are nurses. Domi worked as a nurse in Italy and Maddy in the NHS. What made them both swap to providing care to people in their homes is the lack of time available for companionship in formal nursing. You’re in and out to carry out a specific task, you’re not allowed to sit and chat. Their warmth and humour comes across in spades when you meet them.

Home Instead is a national organisation. The Chiswick branch is the second busiest in the country, covering Chiswick, Hammersmith, Shepherd’s Bush, Acton, part of Ealing and part of Fulham. Rated ‘good’ by the Care Quality Commission.

You will find them at their office on Sutton Court Rd, opposite Chiswick railway station. Ring them on 0208 7461213 or find out more about their services and prices on their website.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Owner of Chiswick Playhouse welcomes lockdown easing as “massive boost”

See also: Life Lessons at Chiswick House cancelled

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