Panic. That was Crescendo Johnson’s first response when the president announced the Covid-19 lockdown last month.
The carer at a Plumstead nursing home says she found herself worrying about how she was going to cope.
“I asked myself how am I going to do this because they initially didn’t want us to come in and out of work.” After the lockdown was announced, she says, the carers were told they would need to sleep in at work, with three to four of them in the same room on blow-up mattresses.
Later, the staff heard they could go home but would have to follow strict procedures.
“There was the suggestion that those that come in and out must have extra clothing, so I now use two navy pants and two white coats every day. So when I leave home, I put my uniform on; then when I get to work, I must take it off, take a shower and then put on the second one. Then while I’m busy working, I put the one I arrived in in the laundry so it’s clean when I leave again.
“They also take our temperatures when we walk in, and there’s hand sanitisers everywhere.”
Ms Johnson says some of the elderly people she cares for have been depressed since the start of lockdown – they’re missing their families and contact with the outside world. “It’s so sad; they’re longing to see their loved ones. Some don’t even know what’s going on. On Easter weekend, some of their family members had to drop off Easter eggs at the gate with us.”
The home has specialised nurses – kitted out in gloves, masks and plastic aprons – to help those who may show symptoms of the virus.
The vulnerable patients are put in isolation.
“We watch out for their symptoms, especially the ones in frail care. Last week on my wing, we had a patient who was shooting temperatures of 36 to 38. We isolated her, but it was only an infection. Old people get a lot of different infections.”
Ms Johnson lives in Crawford, and she says her taxi rides to work are now very different. When someone in the taxi coughs, she gets scared.
“When I get onto the taxi, I always choose the single seater so no one will sit next to me, and I face by the window. One lady was sitting behind me then I just felt this hot air on my neck. She just coughed on me. She didn’t cover anything. I remember I turned around and I gave her this look. I made sure that I didn’t close the window.”