Sally Tabbner’s Covid-19 Weekly Diary – 1

Dementia Support's Chief Executive Sally Tabbner

Reflecting on the Week………

The tiredness and mental exhaustion during this time is phenomenal.  My mind, like most others I am sure, has moved quickly from one scenario to another, from worrying about one person to another, so quickly that it’s really not getting time to debrief fully and download emotions – given what I do, I know this is not good so that’s my goal for next week to output my feelings!  Everything feels just a bit foggy and surreal currently and my short-term memory is even more shocking than normal!

Everyone is pretty much working from home now, since we sent them on Tuesday, that is apart from a core of three of us who are dealing with the reactive side of the business with communications, messaging and “urgent need” responses.  The whole team, although spread out across the County are really holding it together though and running the ongoing business and importantly looking after our customers “virtually”.  We’ve some who are self-isolating due to personal situations, but everyone is busy doing something which contributes to the current debacle of life or the long-term future of our charity for when this whole mess is over.

How can it even be true that on 10th March I was walking around saying to everyone we are business as usual? That’s only 2 ½ weeks ago?

It’s only been a week since shutting down our much-loved Day Breaks service, but it feels like so much longer.  It’s been a blur of little and interrupted sleep, early morning starts, communicating as much as possible with the people who matter – our customers and their families, and desperately trying to do what we can to ensure that our amazing staff team are as well and supported as they can be in these worrying times.   

It feels like I am running around and reacting, working off the hoof most of the time, which is hard for someone like me who is generally proactive and strategic in their approach.  I am trying to keep positive and to ensure we are sending messages of love and friendship to our supporters, to help as much as we can at this time and more than anything to demonstrate our can do attitude and to reinforce that this will pass

The team are doing amazingly – so creative with ideas about how we can support our customers during this time and the technology we invested in is holding up – in fact, I’d go as far as to say, its brilliant – so well done Chalkwood IT for that!

My week has been consumed by working at lightning speed with the management team to come up with new services and ways in which we can support our customers as best we can during this difficult time.  Together everyone in the charity has managed to pull some truly remarkable things out of the bag which will really make a difference to people living with dementia locally – which is afterall what we are all about.   

So, I have opened up my journal a little to you – it captures my week as it happened! Warts and all! (Some stuff removed to protect the CEO though!!)

 

Friday 20th March 2020

We took the decision to close day breaks in order to do the most caring and responsible thing for our customers physical health – this hurt more than anything I have ever done professionally.  It ended for our customers on a high with a great show by Dawn Gracie [incidentally this is still being watched and has had over 7,500 views on our facebook page as at today].

Today we laughed, we sang and danced, and we waved goodbye to our lovely customers and their carers – it’s fair to say all of us at the charity feel completely defeated and a bit empty now.  I sobbed in my office this afternoon, worried about how our poor carers were going to cope, knowing that we  have been their lifeline – the only thing that enables them to get out or do “normal” things like cleaning and shopping. Some are without families – what will they do?

I think I saw a tear in every staff member’s eye today, some fell apart knowing how tough the coming weeks will be for some of the most precious and vulnerable people that we know and actually really like. 

The feeling of guilt is quite immense – being the ultimate decision maker means feeling responsible for cutting off a service that has become another’s lifeline even though you have qualified the reason for your decision with yourself it hurts…..badly.  I know it isn’t my fault though.

I’m gutted……I have no words.

 

Monday 23rd March 2020

We are all a bit stunned still and today kicked off with us, having generated call lists of all of our vulnerable customers and determining who needed what, frequency of call, getting into flow – processes and data capture being developed as we went and with such a great team effort to ensure that customers were prioritised and felt loved. 

Everyone is really doing their bit…and more.

I have never witnessed new systems being developed so quickly and effectively and I feel really proud of my team.

 

Tuesday 24th March 2020

The guidance from central Government shifted again today to one of everyone should self-isolate if at all possible, so we told the team to go home. Luckily, we’d already worked up what each team members priorities would be if they had to homework.  We discussed the work plans, made sure the tech was working and that importantly the phones could still be answered to support our customers. 

The team also made up amazing personalised packs and boxes and delivered them out to our customers to help to relieve some of the stress and boredom that we know isolation will bring including talking books with their voices recorded on them.

 

We also started to get together a resource pack idea – a printed book that we can send out to customers – all the team set to it and added content on things around exercising, wordsearches, singing, mindful colouring, and reminiscence exercises – just simple things that people can do at home to make life a little more bearable. Shelley is going to design artwork and print it bless her.

We contacted all volunteers to see how they are and to report on what we are up to – they are part of our Sage House family and we need to keep them in our thoughts.

An electronic donor update went out today too with how we are responding to the current situation.

Worse part today for me – witnessed Sage House being officially mothballed – closed down, empty. Cried again! It’s actually making me feel sick – I worked so hard to get it right. It was right, it was doing good and helping people which is all I wanted to do and now that’s gone…..my head is saying it will come back but my heart hurts.

 

Wednesday 25th March 2020

Today saw a swathe of energy bubble in the team and creativity start to flow as to how can we deliver even more for all of our local vulnerable people who now have no choice but to isolate – not just the boredom but trying to cope with some challenging behaviours in the most heinous of times.  We’ve always been about improving the quality of life for people living with dementia and the team are well versed in how to do that normally but, not being hands on now, means we are trying to think differently at a time when people need us more than ever …..

Today we decided to extend the times for telephone calls/wayfinding service.  This means we are now open to calls from 7am (for our early birds!!) and staying open until 7pm. We are also now operating the phones Sat & Sun 10am-2pm.

We also worked up and prepared all of the processes to launch a new telephone befriending service on Monday 30th. We are already receiving telephone calls from people who are simply lonely – heart breaking considering how long this will go on for – I really don’t want people to get used to the concept of being alone…. 

We are in the midst of contacting our volunteers to see if they will help with the befriending service and we need to carefully match demand to resource so we are going to gently launch the service over the coming week starting with leaflets and posters in our local community Boxgrove and Tangmere.  The Parish councils are involved and will get the message out to their single households.  Great moment today was chatting to Martha through her window when dropping off leaflets…..I’m missing people and my team.

We also set up a “Zoom” account which enables people to conference essentially and hope to launch it next week as a virtual chatter table – we are just working out which volunteers might be able to help facilitate the discussions.

We received a lovely cheque for £4k today – a trust application that really we had little confidence around which helped my mood a little!

Today we also compiled a list of everyone delivering food etc across our patch which will be in the resource pack but tonight when I’ve talked to them Adult Social care are reporting lack of shopping services in Chichester and Petworth for vulnerable people as families isolating as they have “at risk” members within but meaning they cant help vulnerable parents…..

I need to park that for tonight and have it as tomorrows discussion with SMT and let my head rest a bit…..need to target our resources in the best possible way – keep vulnerable people as our focus – it’s what we do, it’s what drives me…..

 

Thursday 26th March 2020

Today it’s really started to bite.

We received our first crisis call from Rapid Access Team in Social Care.  There is now only one criteria at the moment for hospital discharge as of yesterday morning where new guidance came out from DoH.  The simple question asked is “is it safe for person to go home” not the myriad of criteria and assessments for this service or that…..I’m so upset as I think if you ask that of most older people, their pride will pretty much always say yes, especially in the current environment…….how can this work?

Our case related to “G” who was discharged from hospital to his flat in central Bognor……83-year-old man who’d had a stroke, has cancer of the brain and struggles to communicate.  His first care call this afternoon revealed he has no kettle, toaster, fridge, white goods, towels, toiletries, money or food or drinks – literally all he had was half a loaf of bread and a banana as well as his bed with some bedding on it – seriously how can this be in today’s world??? 

Stonepillow is closed who’d normally get involved in this type of thing……..but together the team organised a fridge, toaster, kettle, microwave, towels, some food items from Sage, toiletries to be going along with (even toilet rolls!!), puzzles, colouring books & pencils, jigsaws and lots of other bits and pieces.  Social Care team collected them half an hour later from the request coming in and delivered them directly to him.  We also arranged for him to have a daily hot meal delivered to him free of charge for the next week and a grocery shop to be delivered again free. The adrenalin was pretty intense at the time and it took ages to calm – I must remember to buy a new kettle for the staff room….

 

We also received a call from an ex offender we began supporting last year by telephone, visiting Sage and engaging with the prison welfare team – he’s been released and living out of the county now – he got a job as soon as he was released but this job has now ceased, he was selling the Big Issue and loving it..bless him.  He called this morning, living alone, anxious, never plugged into benefits or Social Services or networks where he lives, because he started working as soon as he got home.  Wayfinders are flipping amazing – they have spoken with probation service (in Bournemouth) who were so pleased to get the call because they cannot help this chap but aware he is vulnerable.  When asked if we would be stepping on toes or repeating what is being done his end all they could say was “you won’t be and yes please if you could help “J” because we cannot”.  Wayfinders have spoken with DWP about getting a claim sorted for Attendance Allowance or Universal Credit and with Bournemouth Social Services.  The chap of course doesn’t have wifi and the library is closed and he has literacy challenges plus he has never used any online service before – I’m frustrated who would help him if we didn’t?  We have spoken to a local church near to him and asked what he needs to bring to access the food bank – a benefits letter which he doesn’t have as he was working!!!!!! HOWEVER the man at the Church has said he will arrange to get him a food parcel together.   This is 2020…it isn’t right??

In terms of the more strategic bits, all of the processes relating to the Telephone Befriending service got worked up today and the leaflets finalised.

We released a press release regarding the anonymous £10k and my open letter last week [incidentally as at now it’s had 3,063 views on Linked in and 3,934 views on Facebook – it was actually trending on Linked in under #thankyou – who’d have thought I could do that – not me and still not sure how, LOL!]

We drew some rainbows as Tangmere is putting them in windows so people taking their daily exercise can look out for them and we put it on Social Media.  Our second Sage Communities Weekly newsletter was also put together this PM – Luke did it in the end – I kept putting it off!

Finally, in-keeping with our previous Precious Moments campaign we launched the Precious Moments Jar of Joy on Social Media which seems to have been shared a lot and well received! I saw something similar on Social Media at about 4 in the morning and thought it was a good fit!

I’m home tonight late and just as people are clapping – not for me, but for those amazing staff in the NHS who I cannot even imagine the horrors of which they are facing on a daily basis and I clapped to for them too and then I selfishly decided that I would also clap for my team and me actually – we deserve it – we are frontline and we are helping and contributing right now.

 

Friday 27th March 2020

As the week progresses, I can feel myself getting more bullet pointy! I am not sure if its tiredness or what it is…

We started the day on social by acknowledging the 8pm NHS hand clap last night and then in the afternoon we were contacted by the BBC who have picked up on my open letter last week re the £10k….they are coming to film on Sunday at Sage with me.  I spent quite a long time talking to Bob Everett on the phone – very odd talking to a voice you know very well but not personally!

We did a live link to Matt’s Musical Matinees in the afternoon with Martha – a lot of fun – they are hilarious together. We facebook lived it and two people joined via zoom too and a lot of the team were on Microsoft Teams in the background throughout…..so great to see them altogether albeit on a TV screen – I miss them!

964 people reached as I write this! And 757 people have viewed the performance so far and we know many were nursing homes so covering more than one person!  We’ve also filmed extra content for the coming weeks.

The graphic design of the resource packs is in full flow. We will sign these off on Monday eve so we can get out delivering Wednesday next week – I’m looking forward to this. My sis has worked so hard on them with us and I really think that they are going to make a difference to people.

One of our Day Breaks carers contacted us desperate for support with their shopping as unable to get out and no family to support – luckily Andy lives pretty close by and has arranged an online order for them which he is collecting and delivering it to them – the gratitude from the customer is immense….he wouldn’t have been able to sort this without us as no family and doesn’t want to keep asking his neighbours.

Isla is sending emails out to our volunteers this weekend asking them to confirm when they might be available to talk to people on the phone for befriending – I’m pretty sure a lot will step forward – already have three trustees signed up!

The charity is also getting lots of new volunteers step forward – don’t get carried away Sally……at times like this we have to be careful not to forgo the processes – we need to keep in mind that we are working with vulnerable people who are targets for some so again Isla is checking out all of the detail about turnaround times etc….she’s such a stickler for things like that thank god!

Today we also received our first referral from WSCC re the telephone befriending service – an older gent who has been discharged from hospital and lives alone.  I know as the weeks go on that these phone calls will start to identify further needs that these individuals have and will be the catalyst for further service design as discussions ensue…I hope we can cope and manage…..need to try and keep ahead of the requests.  

With that in mind its important I keep well and focussed AND SLEEP!!!!  I also need to make sure the team download and take time out for them and their families – how can I make sure that happens remotely? Also the burn out thing – we talked about it in our daily SMT today…..how can we make sure all of the team look after ourselves.

The team are still maintaining our daily call lists, but I suspect that time on calls is starting to increase as loneliness sets in – luckily the team have been busy building more systems to ensure they can capture this info.

Next week will see us launching George the Cat’s Sage House Adventures (he’s one of the robotic cats that was sponsored by George Ide solicitors) – it’s a way of bringing one of our donors to the fore at this time, but also something for our customers to follow – we have Daleen onboard, our resident cartoonist, and she is going to draw for us for the foreseeable future – it will provide us with a different approach and keep some of our messaging a bit light hearted.

The fundraising team haven’t stopped either – identifying new platforms and approaches so that we can still raise monies in different ways – even the Giant Easter Eggs will be virtual!

At 11am today we published the story about “G” who we helped sort white goods and other things for yesterday.  [At the time of writing on facebook alone we have had 2147 views, 137 likes and 23 shares]. I have no words for the difference we seem to have made to him according to Social Services feedback – apparently just the pack of digestives we sent alone had a massive impact on his wellbeing… the thankfulness of the Social Work Team too was so positive.

It’s hard to come home to an empty house – the eery silence after another day of hubbub and rushing.  As a single person I am realising that I have not been within 2 metres of anyone in the last fortnight which is just odd! But it helps to capture the day and see what a difference you are helping to have in these very strange times, even if you can’t touch or go near anyone!

Let’s see what next week brings……….

 

Sally Tabbner

28/03/2020