My husband and I run a small residential home for, currently, four adults with learning disabilities (we are registered for five people). We all live in the same semi-detached house and most people say we run more like Shared Lives than residential. When we first became aware of the Corona Virus we became concerned for the people we live with and care for, all in their late 50s or 60s and with some underlying health issues. That worry increased when we heard reports (true or false?) that they were likely to be bottom of the list for using a ventilator if that choice ever had to be made, so we went into self-isolation with them a week earlier than most people. We talked it over with our two regular care staff and decided that all the while we were able to cope on our own we were all at significantly less risk if they no longer came in to work, so we all waved them off one sad morning and since then it has just been us six, which has been for 4 weeks now.
In making that choice to go into isolation together early we were aware it could cause real issues to all of us with such a dramatic change in routines, so we felt the best thing to do would be to keep some similar routines indoors. Instead of going out daily to do all the varied things people have chosen normally we have had to think of ‘activities’ we could do indoors or in the garden to fill the days just as happily. We have been led by everyone here and they have been great at telling us what they want to do, baking cakes and biscuits being their favourite! We have found lots of different arts and crafts projects too and then of course everyone has been helping with housework. Even that has been done happily!
Music and dance have been the best mood lifters. I never thought I would be so pleased to find our old Black Lace CD, but Agadoo, the Conga, and Superman have been great at getting everyone up and moving and, best of all, laughing! It does feel very strange to conga up and around your own hallway before lunch but it is great exercise for us all and so funny. The Karaoke machine has also come into its own and I am very glad it is my dad who lives next door in the attached house as I know he won’t mind hearing the singing, which can be very loud! Oh, and one other great mood lifter has been our lovely dog. He has sadly started to lose his eyesight in the last few weeks so we are all working out ways to help him still play, using a ball with a bell in it so he can hear it when he can’t see it. He gets lots of fuss made and is a great distraction for everyone.
Time of day seems to be of little consequence at the moment though. People are getting up late and going to bed later than usual, often around midnight if they are watching a good film. It is really relaxed and we are all enjoying this slower pace of life. Keeping a routine of finding specific things to do each day has been very important but we have set no times so we can do them when everyone is ready.
I rarely put pictures online of all of us usually as I feel it can be a bit intrusive of peoples’ privacy, but that has all changed for the moment. We discussed putting pictures online with everyone here and now add them regularly, with everyone suddenly posing for photos at what seems like every opportunity! Everyone can then see the comments from family and friends and it makes us all feel more connected to the outside world. It has also helped us all here to realise that everyone else is in this same strange position and everyone is also having to find ways of coping. We have not watched too much news as it can be frightening and depressing, but have kept people here up to date with what has been happening, such as the shops and restaurants all being shut, the Prime Minster being ill and the importance of hand washing.
The connection to important people has been hard to work through. We discussed with families very early on what they felt would be best. It was hard as of course everyone wants to be here visiting as normal, but of course those same people also want everyone to remain safe and well. The hardest decision was for a mum in her 80s as we did not want to cause her any distress with strict non visiting, but she is a sensible lady and decided herself not to visit at present. She has no links other than the phone which means she sadly does not see online photos, so her son has been phoning from here daily and we have been helping him to send letters and handmade cards with photos I have printed off for her. Other family members are on video links and social media and I email others to keep them up to date with what we have all been doing and add photos too. This contact is so important to everyone here and for their families, putting minds at rest at both ends at least a little.
We all also go out to join in with the neighbours for the now weekly applause for the NHS and this has also become a time for a shouted, ‘Hello’ and a wave and thumbs up to those people. The neighbours here are all always really great and very supportive and have offered to get food or anything else we are running out of at the moment, which has been so nice. Thankfully we are coping though, with food deliveries coming around once a week and a helpful pharmacy just up the road. With the amount of baking being done though it was funny to see how excited we all got when the flour arrived in the food delivery! It is just one of the little essentials which pleases us so much at the moment!
We feel very lucky to be spending our ‘lockdown’ in such great company with no arguments, no moans and groans about not going out, no upsets at all (touching wood as I say all of that!!). Every day has been fun, the only worries being on the odd occasion one of us has to leave our safe little bubble to pick up something essential from the pharmacy or even just to post a letter, when the threats from outside become real again.
I believe ‘Normal’ life may actually be very different in the future as so many people will have been badly affected by all of this and we will all have to adapt to that. I also believe though that we here will want to carry some of our current new lifestyle, which we have created over the last four weeks, into that possibly strange new world.