Home Manager’s advice on mental health support
One of our amazing care Home Managers has shared her personal insight on how to lead her team through somewhat different circumstances in time for Mental Health Awareness Week.
Sally Gregory, Home Manager at Guys Court Residential and Nursing Home – care home in Fleetwood, decided to leave her loved ones and live with her residents to try and protect the home from the Covid-19 virus – a decision she made herself nine weeks ago, and during that time she was joined by a team of eight, who also moved into the home for two weeks.
Here are her three simple tips to positive mental health and being supportive and kind to one another.
1. Find a routine that makes you thrive
Describing the situation, Sally said: “I am so proud of every member of my team, as there were no grumbles whatsoever. We wanted to be there and do our bit for our residents. Morale was also surprisingly high in the main, which was helped by the outstanding support from our residents’ loved ones and our local community - we received take away pizza dinners and relatives would come and clap for us from our car park every Thursday evening at 8pm without fail.
“But from a logistical and work perspective, I think the underlying method that helped us was organisation and a routine. We had our routine from the offset and it worked, and in the situation we still thrived and gave the optimum care to our residents and enriched their lives. We were in no way muddling along and struggling by - we were doing our very best.
“Two of the care staff volunteered to carry out the night duties and after their sleep the chef had their meals prepared and they sat together in the dining room. I was conscious that they were required to work excessive consecutive hours so instructed that they rest between routine safety rounds and answering call bells. Ordinarily the night staff would carry out some domestic tasks but after I had completed my essential manager duties each day, I cleaned all bathrooms, communal areas, maintained the laundry and set out a section of bedrooms to clean each day. We adapted our roles so we worked together as a team, it never is anyway but I ensured it wasn’t me and them - it was us. We supported one another throughout.”
2. Find time for the giggles, pick me ups and being upbeat
It wasn’t just work duties, Sally and her team found time to have downtime and share funny moments with one another. Sally continued: “We all get on so well, we are like a working family, but living and working together I was conscious we made time for some downtime - some light-hearted giggles. And I still smile now about one particular evening. All the girls were resting in the lounge before their nightshift and it was too quiet for me so while I was on my way to do some housekeeping duties, I was singing loud and just being silly which was even more amusing as I was head to toe in PPE. Everyone was in stitches and it was little pick me ups like that, that made all the difference.
“I was very fortunate with the staff that I had with me, we all kept each other upbeat and made sure that residents were occupied and remained in good spirits. The home was not on its knees and it was because of the light-hearted fun we injected in it.”
3. Finding time to stay connected with loved ones - communication is everything
Sally continued: “During the day we worked collaboratively and set times for relatives to call and chat with their loved ones and I made sure we all sat together in the evening to eat whilst taking turns responding to call bells. Human connection is everything - everyone can make new relationships but building relationships takes time and effort - effort we all put in.
“During the time the team were living in the home with me, there was a time when things did start to feel a but surreal - we are only human after all. And when atmosphere did start to change, I mixed things up. I got the whole team together and we discussed how we would move forward and we decided we would have regular group chats like this as it benefited us all, and this would be a time for everyone to speak frankly about how they were managing the situation. It was like therapy and it was what we needed. We would be transparent with one another and did this every evening and following handover.”
Tips for managing your team’s mental health
Sally concluded: “So these are my three tips. My advice to any other managers in care homes or other settings, is to is to consider the below...
- have time to breathe - whether that’s being creative, digesting their current workload or if you’re living in a care home like we were, have time for you
- maintain connection, life is busy but your team will thrive if you make time for them, listen to them and be kind to them
- respect them as individuals, everyone has different needs and if you realise what individual requirements each team member needs to feel supported, they will thrive - that could be enabling them to have quieter days, changing your style of management or reminding more often that you’re there.
“Living in a care home with your team is a very unique situation but it has given me an excellent insight into the outstanding calibre of staff that we have on-board (those who moved into the home and those who stayed with loved ones) and their amazing personalities and mental health needs. So make time to get to know your staff - obviously you don’t have to move in together but think of unique bonding activities and don’t forget to talk! Because talking and being present is everything.”