May 20

Life in lockdown

Posted: 22 May 2020

Jak Savage was a finalist in the Best individual who employs their own care and support staff category at the Skills for Care Accolades 2020 awards. Here she reflects on what lockdown down means for her family and support team.

We have all been adjusting to lockdown in the last month. We are all home together, my husband,a local government officer is working from home, but still going out when needed to do some COVID-19 response tasks in the community. Our 12-year-old daughter is loving home schooling, especially as pyjama days are readily approved. Our family cat Layla appears very put out that the house is now filled with noise in the daytime, now we are all home together.

Lockdown was an essential for us, due to me being on the clinically vulnerable list. My personal assistants still come into me Monday to Friday, as it gives my husband much needed respite. It also gives me my usual routine and supported time away from the family, to enable them to balance a 40 hour a week work and home-schooling schedules.

Routine is what is getting us through this day to day. I find we worry about more things now, especially in the wake of COVID-19. We have my 84-year-old father-in-law 40 miles away who is also shielding and living independently too. With our conditions, I am acutely aware COVID-19 could hospitalise us both.

In the early days we found new ways of contacting people, working our way through a mountain of Easter chocolate, and finding fun ways of breaking up the day. That has all changed now, the gravity of COVID-19 truly hit home four weeks ago when, my Grandfather contracted it. It broke my heart to say goodbye to him, watching over WhatsApp video as he lay struggling to breathe in his last hours in a hospital bed.

As an employer it is hugely different. As soon as I became aware that COVID-19 had spread outside of Wuhan, I started to plan. Firstly, ensuring I could protect not only myself and the family but also looking at personal protective equipment (PPE) availability with the Local Authority to protect my personal assistant team too. It has become a difficult challenge and working to secure this with the relevant people has been made far more difficult than it should have been.

I have created new short practice exercises and resources for the team to quickly upskill them with the latest information and to help them plan for all ‘potential scenarios’ with COVID-19. As an employer I have developed safe systems of work, robust risk assessments and reviewed all our practices to help to safeguard everyone and give what little piece of mind I can in a time of uncertainty.

The wellbeing of our PAs are our priority. The team here has responded so well to the changes in the way we work, I feel that our safety and wellbeing is theirs. I can only commend them for the wonderful job they do everyday and continue to work as I am doing, making here, my home, as safe as possible. I am now putting in place practices to support PAs emotional wellbeing as well as resilience training. Planning their support if we or they are impacted by COVID-19.

For all of the things I am not sure of at the moment and the endless battle it can be trying to get the support here I need, I am certain of two things; planning ahead for every eventuality is the best thing and where you cannot get help, keep trying for it.  Whilst these are unprecedented times we face; we will get through this. My thoughts rest with the families of all who have lost loved ones and those who have lost their lives in the line of duty in the NHS and social care sector.

I just hope that when the worst has passed, we reflect to ensure employers like me are remembered with mechanisms put in place for consistent and timely information and guidance, and our PAs get the national living wage and the recognition they so rightly deserve.

For more information on Skills for Care’s support for individual employers and PAs go to our information hub www.skillsforcare.org.uk/iepahub.