As 2020 draws to a close, let’s take a few moments to look back. We would like to take this opportunity to once again thank our staff for their compassion, dedication and hard work throughout this challenging year, as well as our community and local businesses who have also gone above and beyond to help us along the way to be stronger together. Here’s to a fantastic 2021!
M&D Care normally organises a big celebration for Mental Health Awareness Week, but not this year sadly.
That’s not to say that celebrations are on hold, or that mental health awareness isn’t a priority for us. Now more than ever, these topics are at the forefront of our thoughts.
We were to delighted to recruit our 300th employee recently. We pride ourselves on being part of our wonderful community here in Carmarthenshire, and further afield in South West Wales. The kindness and support we have received from businesses, groups and individuals in our local area has been phenomenal and we are genuinely touched by the dedication and selflessness of our own staff; the people we support and their families; and the partners we work with from local authorities and health boards across the region.
These are unprecedented times, and the physical and mental well-being of everyone involved with M&D Care is vitally important. Our staff have 24/7 access to our online Hub which details useful resources and contains mental health care packs with details of how to look after your mental and physical health and how to access support in a crisis. We also have a company health scheme that provides support for employees and their families and we took steps to ensure that no one who was affected by the Covid-19 pandemic would be left financially struggling. The 24 hour hub also has access to a sessional trained counsellor, with 24 hour on call GP’s.
Looking after your mental health and the importance of kindness are messages we have been spreading for a while at M&D Care. Back in September, Okan and Leanne from our domiciliary care team gave a talk to the pupils and staff at Oakleigh House School. It was about the importance of always being kind to others, and the positive effect this can have on a person’s well-being. They read our Brucey Bear story book that highlights the importance of looking out for others, and that it’s “okay to not feel okay – let’s talk about it”. M&D Care hope to visit more schools in the future when it is safe to do so. We’d like to share this message and encourage people to talk to each other about how they are feeling.
The mental health foundation have published a guide for this Awareness Week. It explains the importance of kindness.
So what are the benefits of kindness?
Helping others feels good
It creates a sense of belonging and reduces isolation
It helps keep things in perspective
It helps to make the world a happier place – one act of kindness can often lead to more!
The more you do for others, the more you do for yourself
Everyday we hear tales of kindness within our services. One of our team members has been supporting someone who had symptoms of coronavirus. They volunteered to do this even though they had their own caring responsibilities and needed to be flexible in changing their set shift pattern so they could provide continuity of support to the person who was unwell. They delivered support in a consistent and planned way, always adhering to health and safety procedures and following risk assessments. This ensured that everyone was kept as safe as possible and the person’s very complex emotional and physical needs were cared for and they didn’t experience additional distress because of a change in routine.
The people that we are proud to support have shown so much kindness and consideration towards their staff. Some have baked cakes, or created artwork, or clapped loudly for the teams that are supporting them. We are moved by their resilience and compassion. We appreciate their patience and understanding during these times where routines have been changed, activities have been rearranged or done differently, and staff have needed to keep their distance.
We also need to be kind to ourselves.
Prioritise some “me” time throughout the day. If you can’t take half an hour or longer in one go then make sure you have regular moments where you can reflect on your own needs.
If the news or social media is fuelling your anxieties or making you grumpy, then have a break for a day, a week or longer.
Do something you enjoy, like listening to a favourite song or dancing in your kitchen.
Spend some time in nature, which is good for our mental health .
Pause for a moment and just notice what you can hear, see, smell and touch. Do an activity mindfully so that you engage fully in whatever it is you are doing at that moment, rather than thinking about the future or worrying about the past.
We have benefited from the kindness of our community.
Yesterday we received a huge donation of cloth face coverings and uniform bags from Judith Tucker and her gang. Judith is a retired healthcare worker and wanted to give something back, were blown away by her generosity – thank you Judith and co.
We’ve received some tasty meals from Dominos pizza and Ocean Blue fish bar.
Our supply of PPE has been enhanced by kind donations of face shields from Dwr y felin comprehensive school; Christopher Cundy and Amman Valley Maker Space have made visors; and In The Welsh Wind have continued to supply us with hand sanitiser. Also, Wyedean comprehensive School in Gloucester sixth form for making face visors for our staff teams.
M&D Care are proud to part of a kind community and we’d like to extend our thanks to everyone we support, everyone who works with us and all members of our community.
2020 – what a year so far!
Back in January, M&D Care were awarded as ‘Overall Winner’ in the West Wales Business Awards, as well as receiving the award for Learning and Development.
Colleagues attended the black tie event at the Stradey Park Hotel and Spa to accept the awards on behalf of the organisation. Little did they know that in a matter of weeks the idea of dressing up for a prestigious dinner and ceremony would seem a thing of the past and our priorities would be ensuring the people we support and our staff were supported and as safe as possible during the Covid-19 pandemic.
This morning, the directors office is a hub of activity with Michelle Martin, our clinical director busy filling up bottles with hand sanitiser so that all our domiciliary care staff out supporting people in their homes in the community can ensure they have sanitised their hands after following the correct hand washing procedure. And Michael Bevan, the Responsible Individual for the organisation has been working closely this morning with the Heads of Service, our PBS team and Managers to ensure that the distress and disruption to routine affecting everyone in our services is managed as effectively and compassionately as possible. Other directors and members of our team based at the office hub in Llangennech are working at home and we are all busy learning how to communicate effectively using Skype and telephone calls rather than our usual popping in to each others office to bounce ideas off each other, plan and problem solve.
M&D Care have been paying close attention to the news ever since the Covid-19 pandemic first hit the headlines. Like everyone else in the country, we were anxious about whether it would reach the UK and Wales, and then when it would hit us. Social care providers are experienced in managing risks related to pandemic flu and our policies and procedures on infection control and business contingency are reviewed in readiness for the regular winter demands of flu. Of course, coronavirus is not the same as seasonal flu and we had to learn very quickly about what additional measures would be needed to support people and minimise risks.
When we first received guidance from the UK and Welsh governments about our responsibilities and duties, we met as a senior team to ensure we had as much information as possible to guide our decision making. CIW and Public Health Wales websites and circulars were studied and we set to work formulating an action plan – which changes day to day as the pandemic progresses. Risk assessments were undertaken to identify worse case scenarios so that we could plan ahead – just in case. Staffing skills and numbers were analysed; Care Teams, Commissioners and Families were contacted to update them on what we were doing and we wrote to every person using our services so that they could be reassured that we would continue to provide support, and how this may look a bit different but we’d still be there for them.
Our staff have been amazing. Some staff are vulnerable due to pre-existing health conditions; others have had symptoms like a cough or raised temperature so have needed to self-isolate. Many staff have children who will need to be at home whilst the schools are closed. Every staff member has received a gift card as a ‘Thank You’ from M&D Care. Whilst M&D Care are able to reassure staff that jobs are as safe as possible, flexible working is available to all parents and options other than SSP are available for time off due to Covid-19, many individuals and families will still be facing financial difficulties. This is why we gave every staff member a £40 shopping voucher to use as they wish. We have been humbled by the commitment of our staff and appreciate their loyalty to the people we support. Social Care workers are frequently undervalued by society and this pandemic is proving just how wrong that attitude is. We always knew this and hopefully more people will recognise the valuable role social care workers play. Well done and thank you to all of you!
Although many things have changed, we’ve ensured that lots of things have stayed the same. The fantastic weather was a bonus last weekend and many of our services held Easter events and celebrations in their homes and gardens. Everyone at The Elms received an Easter egg and enjoyed games in the garden followed by a lovely lunch, whilst at Croft House they held an Easter bonnet parade and decorated the windows with artwork.
We are proud of the encouragement our staff are receiving from the people we support. Reminders about hand washing, respecting social distancing and joining in with the weekly clapping for NHS and care workers every Thursday evening. There is a genuine sense of us all being in this together and the wonderful people we support are making our jobs so much easier by their understanding attitudes and acceptance of how we need to work differently.
Of course, change can be very distressing too. Many people rely on structure and routine to get through the day and make sense of the world. Suddenly finding that you cannot go to familiar places or have a walk whenever you want to de-stress and get exercise is difficult for anyone to cope with. If you have a mental illness, brain injury, learning disability or autism then it can be even harder. M&D Care has a team of PBS practitioners that have been supporting managers and staff teams to find innovative ways of creating new routines or adapting existing routines to be home based. We have seen a pop-up barbers shop in one residential service where one of the people we support got to have their regular hair cut, with all the trimmings – pardon the pun!!!
Ynystawe Lodge opened earlier this year. It is a service that has been designed to provide fully customisable accommodation that meets the sensory needs of people who have autism and other complex needs, and can cope with the rigours of distressed and challenging behaviour. The people that we support there are some of the most vulnerable members of our society who frequently experience difficulties with communication and understanding. Max Cusack, one of our PBS practitioners described this morning how one of the people being supported in Ynystawe Lodge finds hand washing difficult because of their sensory processing needs. The staff team have found ways of incorporating water play into this person’s day so that they can frequently wash their hands without feeling distressed by it.
Not being able to get out and about hasn’t stopped our activities. If anything, it has given us the opportunity to look at how we can make every day more meaningful for people using M&D Care’s services. One gentleman we support needs to visit the shops every day – whilst this activity may seem like a chore or run of the mill to many of us, to him it is essential for his wellbeing. We have created a shop within the residential service so that he can still have the experience of visiting a shop, paying for goods and enjoying the social interaction with the shopkeeper. In fact, this shop has enabled him to develop his money handling skills in an environment that is safer than a shop and doesn’t have impatient customers behind him in the queue!
It’s not just the staff and people we support that are in it together. We have felt a real sense of community spirit with our neighbours and local businesses too.
Castell Howells have ensured we have everything we need to feed the people in our residential services and they offer a delivery service to people in the community too so that they don’t need to visit shops. We cannot thank them enough for this. The news is full of stories of shortages of PPE and this is a very real worry for our staff, the people we are supporting and their families. We have adequate supplies at the moment and in fact we have been able to donate some PPE to other care providers and the local NHS district nurses. It’s essential that we all work together and help each other out where we can.
M&D Care has several residential and supported living services and a team of domiciliary care staff. We have managed our rotas so that staff are working across as few services as possible to minimise the risk of unknowingly spreading infection. We have been able to offer help to other providers and the local authorities and health boards in South West Wales – at the moment our staff numbers are manageable. This is partly through some people we support being able to self-isolate with families or reduce face to face visits temporarily. We are continuing to recruit new team members and last week we held inductions for new starters – including our newest team members who had sadly been made redundant from a local employer, Debenhams.
We have many staff who did not join us from a care background. Initially they were concerned that care may not be the job for them, but some of our most successful employees have worked in a diverse range of industries including the armed forces, hairdressing, retail and hospitality trades. All of these jobs involve the type of skills good care workers have: negotiating, being friendly, problem solving, and staying calm in busy environments. If you are interested in joining us, please take a look at our recruitment pages on our website and Facebook.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our first blog post and hearing about what we’ve been up to. M&D Care welcomes feedback and invites you to check us out on Facebook or online – give us a “like” if you wish.
We’ll continue working together as staff; with the people we support and their families and care teams; and with our local communities to get through the Covid-19 pandemic.
Thank you to all our supporters and we wish you well.
We are very proud of Mike Bevan, our Director of Operations, who will take on the challenge of completing the Barcelona, London and the Edinburgh Marathons 2020 all in 10 weeks – in aid of learning disabilities charity Mencap.
Mike is training hard for more than 110 competitive miles, starting in February 2020, and he is running 100 training miles per month. He even pushed on with his training programme in the 40-degree centigrade heat and humidity of the Middle East, during a recent break there.
He said: “Mencap is the London Marathon charity of the year so I was pleased to be chosen to support the charity with my run, since learning disabilities is a cause that, of course, means a lot to me. I hope that by running the Barcelona and the Edinburgh marathons too, within 10 weeks of each other, it will raise more awareness for the wonderful cause– and more money for this excellent cause.”
Mike has taken on the London Marathon in the past, running for mental health charity MIND, and raising around £2000. He is hoping to exceed this tally this time.
Mike has worked with people with learning disabilities for around 13 years, having come from a career in construction. He explains: “I was one of those young people who didn’t know what to do after my A Levels. My dad ran a construction firm, so I followed him into that industry and worked in construction for a few years. But my mind always went back to a short period of time I worked in a hydrotherapy unit, helping children with autism. I loved the experience, so one day I just decided to make a career change.
“Many people around me thought I was making the wrong decision. There have been stressful times, and the industry requires dedication, but there are so many opportunities within adult care, there is so much quality training and there are valuable career progression opportunities. It was, in fact, the best thing I ever did.”
If you want to support Mike on his marathon activities, find his fundraising page here: