Elderly residents at a number of Renaissance Care’s Aberdeen care homes were reunited with family members on Monday, with outdoor meetings allowing loved ones to reconnect in person for the first time since March.
The sun was shining for the first day of emotional visits, giving relatives the chance to catch up with their parents, grandparents and relatives in person. Keeping loved ones connected has been a key focal point for Renaissance Care since the start of the pandemic, purchasing iPads for each of its 15 care homes and maintaining strong communication with relatives throughout.
The visits are in line with a six-figure investment sum from care home veteran Robert Kilgour for new equipment aimed at easing safety concerns for the outdoor meetings.
As well as further increasing stocks of PPE across the group, Kilgour’s Renaissance Care is kitting out each of its care homes with state-of-the-art temperature-screening thermal imaging cameras and portable, industrial-strength air purifiers which allow, in a natural and environmentally friendly way, for both room air and all surfaces to be fully sterilised.
The cameras are now being used across each of the homes, with the air purifiers delivered in good time for the planned next phase – indoor visiting – that will follow.
This will assist with checks for COVID-19 temperature symptoms, and with swift deep cleaning of all spaces which have been accessed by relatives as visits resume.
Renaissance Care has also purchased the license to use a booking app that will allow relatives of residents to reserve a visiting slot on their smart phones and ease the staff task of organising visitor numbers at a safe level that will ensure social distancing.
Kilgour said: “This is a substantial investment on our part, but it is absolutely essential in helping to ensure our residents and their relatives feel confident in safety during visits.”
Renaissance Care started to implement visitor restrictions early in the crisis on 1 March and chose to lock down all their care homes to visitors on 11 March, but have allowed ‘end of life’ visits to take place throughout, following guidelines.
It will now be allowing all relatives visiting to start up again in the approved manner – outside only – at most of its homes with a couple of homes being delayed for a further 10-12 days to fulfil the ‘COVID-19 free for 28 days’ rule, all under the strict guidelines and advice of Public Health Scotland.
Kilgour said “Our 15 care homes throughout Scotland have had a 73-day rollercoaster ride from our first resident testing positive on 3 April to all our homes being COVID-19 free on 15 June.
“Sadly we have lost 48 of our much-loved residents who have tested positive during this crisis, but we have also seen 91 of our residents recover thanks to the hardwork and dedication of our superb staff.
“In 30 years of working in the social care sector, I have never been more proud to be a part of such a great workforce who have fought so bravely at the front line against this terrible virus, going above and beyond and caring for what are their second families.
“These visits will be just what our residents need to raise their morale after many weeks of isolation and of not being able to see their children and grandchildren face to face. We are all very excited to welcome them back. Monday will be the start for all concerned of the slow and careful journey to our new normality.”
Kilgour added: “Our faith in the future of the care home sector is shown by the fact that on 20 April we took over 60-bedroom Kingsmills care home in Inverness and we’re delighted to welcome the home’s residents and its 90 staff into our family. We look forward to working closely with all of those involved with the home over the months and years to come.”
Jade McGowan, activity co-ordinator at Jesmond Care Home situated in Bridge of Don, said: “It was a very special day seeing a number of our residents being reunited with loved ones. There was a real buzz about the place and it really rejuvenated the residents, although it was also hard to see them say their goodbyes until the next visit is allowed.”
Lesley Simpson, daughter of Jesmond resident June Langridge, said: “Monday was very emotional but lovely to meet up with my mum after nearly four long months.
“A very professional system was in place to keep us all safe. Thanks to the wonderful staff at Jesmond for making this possible.”