This Awards category recognises the home care individuals that went above and beyond to ensure the safety and well-being of their clients during the pandemic.

It shines a spotlight on those care professionals who went the extra mile to protect their vulnerable customers not only from coronavirus, but also the mental health implications that came with it, thinking of innovative ways to boost morale and always showing kindness, empathy and dedication.

The finalists are:

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Helen Newcombe, MiHomecare (Carmarthen and Swansea)

A registered manager of 12 years, Helen Newcombe is an inspiring an innovative problem-solver. She regularly pitches creative concepts to her local authority partners to answer specific challenges and brings these to life. Examples include the Bridging Service, designed to prevent delayed discharges, and the COVID-19 Peripatetic Home Care Service.

Early in the pandemic, Helen developed two dedicated COVID-19 teams to care for those with a COVID diagnosis who were ready to be discharged from hospital, or who were managing their symptoms in the community. Helen allocated teams to work only with COVID positive service users to prevent transmission into the home care population. Patients were discharged from hospital to MiHomecare’s care, freeing much-needed beds on COVID wards. Service users with a diagnosed case also transferred to the provider from other less-prepared community care services. Helen also ensured that her COVID-19 teams received all the training they required and established enhanced support mechanisms to safeguard their emotional well-being.

Helen also sourced iPads to connect loved ones during lockdown; proposed and distributed a 50-page activity pack to clients; organised lockdown-compliant VE day household celebrations and garden clean-ups; forged close community links to secure PPE donations; and delivered front-line care, whenever capacity dipped.

At the very outset of the pandemic, Helen also used her initiative to adapt and reconsider risk assessments in view of the implications of COVID-19. This work was rolled out across the wider organisation.

Lisa Cranston, Caremark (Mansfield and Ashfield)

Lisa Cranston has worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic, enduring extra shifts when colleagues where having to self-isolate, continuing to care for others with a smile and a cheery disposition despite having to deal with a tragic accident within her own family, resulting in additional care being required for her son.  

One stand-out act of heroism was when she saved the life of a customer. After leaving her client’s lunch call on September 8, she was alerted by a member of the public that there was a fire alarm sounding at a neighbouring customer’s property. On entering the property, she discovered that the lounge was full of smoke and the customer was asleep in her chair, with the bin to the side of her alight. 

Lisa quickly jumped into her status as a “Hero in Blue”,  checking on the customer initially before extinguishing the fire and opening all the doors and windows.

Whilst waiting for the all-clear from the emergency services, Lisa stayed with the customer to ensure that she was okay, and also continued to clean the property to remove smoke residue and ensure that the property would remain habitable, as well as advising next of kin of the incident and actions being taken.  

Nassrat Bi, Bluebird Care (Birmingham East and North)

A care worker with Bluebird Care for the last two years, Nassrat Bi has shown incredible kindness, commitment and bravery throughout the pandemic.  One of the customers that Nassrat cared for was a man with terminal cancer. She supported him and his family as his health deteriorated and was there for him when he passed away. It was during this time that Nassrat’s father was taken seriously ill with COVID and later passed away.

The family of the service user made a point of showing their appreciation by sending Nassrat a bouquet of flowers with a thank you note for all of her kindness and hard work.

Nassrat took some time off work to grieve and returned shortly after, showing great professionalism.  

Another of her clients had severe dementia and would often be aggressive towards carers that were trying to assist her. Nassrat built a very good relationship with the client and was one of the few carers that managed to gain her trust, and always found a way of reassuring her and calming her down.

For safety reasons, the family would observe her mum on a camera during the night and would comment on how kind Nassrat was, even when her mum was lashing out.

In recent weeks, the client deteriorated rapidly, and Bluebird Care provided end-of-life care for her. Nassrat was one of the lead care assistants that showed total commitment to ensuring that the lady was comfortable and well cared for.

Once again, she cared for her until her final day, showing compassion and kindness, both to the customer and her family.

Sally Irving, BooCare

A registered manager at Somerset-based BooCare, Sally Irving has gone above and beyond to provide exceptional care to service users. Examples include shopping and picking up medication during the pandemic, which she still continues to do. Sally also put together care packages for customers, including items that were difficult to obtain during the pandemic, including toilet rolls, bread and milk, and ensured these were always topped up.

Sally recognised that it was crucial to ensure that not only physical needs, but also the mental needs of the service users were met in such an unprecedented time. Many service users were anxious, so in order to try and support them, Sally ensured she could help wherever she could. Examples include providing extra social visits, free of charge, to provide companionship; providing service users with masks or visors if they were going to any appointments. Crucially, many service users were left without their family members’ support. Sally knew this would have a drastic impact on clients, so she worked extra hours, unpaid, to ensure BooCare could provide extra visits to any service user who was in need.

During the pandemic, district nurses pulled out of visiting many of BooCare’s service users, leaving them with wounds that they could not bandage or treat on their own. Sally is a fully qualified tissue viability nurse, who was a district nurse for many years, so as soon as she was made aware of the situation she called the nurses and asked them to supply her with the bandages. She then took over the service, free of charge. Sally has continued throughout to provide these services and ensure that service users’ wounds have healed. Without Sally stepping in, there could have been severe consequences.

Simon Martin, Helping Hands (Warwickshire)

Helping Hands care worker Simon Martin has a fantastic reputation within his team for the exceptional care he provides, which has specifically been recognised across the wider business. Prior to the lockdown, Simon would help his customers get out and about, taking them to local memory cafes and even arranged a hot air balloon ride for one client who had always wanted to do so. One customer, who lives in a rural area, struggled to stay connected to his community because there are no public transport routes in his area and a round-trip in a taxi is expensive due to the size of his wheelchair. Knowing this, when Simon was in the process of buying a new car, he bought an accessible vehicle so he could take the client to various places. The client was elated.

Since the pandemic hit, and taking vulnerable customers out into the community hasn’t been possible, Simon has found unique ways to help them get some fresh air. He took one customer out in his convertible car so she could enjoy a change of scenery.

Simon’s commitment to high quality care has enabled his customers find joy and be content in what could have otherwise been a very unsettling time for them. By giving them an adventure to look forward to or helping them to engage with nature, customers have not only felt distracted from the events of the pandemic, but they have felt comforted and, most importantly, not alone.

To view the full list of Care Heroes Awards finalists, click here.

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Sarah Clarke

The author Sarah Clarke

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