The little things that help to keep people independent in the Dales

During the Covid-19 pandemic, North Yorkshire has been kept on its feet by an army of frontline workers.

From social workers to care home staff and beyond, this vital work has kept our loved ones safe and cared for.

This includes re-ablement workers who help vulnerable people make the transition from hospital to their home, ensuring care is in place if they need it.

Re-ablement workers help to keep people in their homes and maintain their independence.

Diane Horner is a re-ablement worker around the Yorkshire Dales. She has worked in care her entire career – but started a job in re-ablement in February, just before the pandemic hit.

She explained the unique challenges of working across such a rural area – with a pandemic thrown into the mix.

Diane said: “Re-ablement work means when a member of the community has been in hospital, for example, just supporting them to get back into their homes.

“It’s a daily visit for up to six weeks and it involves supporting the person to regain their independence. Looking at what they can and can’t do and providing solutions so that people can stay at home. It is also recognising if the person will need long-term care whilst at home.

“It might be not being able to lift a kettle, for example, so we can suggest a one-cup kettle, or struggling to put socks on – there’s a tool to help with that. Or if they can’t cook, help putting a meals delivery service in place.

“Most people do want to stay at home for as long as they possibly can and we are there to make sure that’s safe.”

Diane Horner and Helen Cook

Diane enjoys being out and about in the community, but she had to get used to working with technology in lockdown, and now in a safe, socially distanced way.

She said: “One of the major differences is the technology – having to have meetings with the team virtually, but it’s worked. Being so rural, we are in constant contact to support each other.

“Another thing I’ve had to get used to is the PPE – it can be very hot under there, but normally I’d want to be sitting and having a chat with the person and it’s different now.

“A lot of elderly people who might be hard of hearing look at your face when you’re talking, so having part of it covered up might be hard for them. I’ve just got to make sure I’m explaining everything slowly and clearly.

“And, because of how rural it is, sometimes the magnitude of coronavirus hasn’t hit them yet, because they barely see anyone else, so they might think the PPE isn’t needed etc – so it’s just so important to explain what is happening.”

Diane added that the rurality of the Dales can bring different considerations.

She said: “There might not be another person around for miles and family could live a long way away.

“Sometimes we get people who feel isolated and lonely, and because of Covid-19 there aren’t as many face-to-face befriending services or things like that, so that’s a consideration.

“But ultimately, if we can keep people in their homes that’s a good thing, because it relieves pressure on care homes.”

Diane Horner and Helen Cook

Helen Cook is also a re-ablement worker and has been since 2010. She says there have been many changes to her working routine due to Covid-19, but one of the biggest adjustments is having to wear a mask as she works.

Helen said: “One of the biggest changes in working day to day is wearing a mask, as you can imagine a lot of the people we help are vulnerable and would lip read. But when you’re wearing a mask all they can see is your eyes and that is hard, especially as I’m a Geordie.

“We’ve always worn aprons and gloves, but the masks are a big change – in social care, for us it’s all about having a good relationship with the service users and it is a challenge to do that in a mask.”

Helen added that as time has gone on, she and the rest of her team have got used to the differences in working.

She added: “A lot of people are still shielding and inside, so from the start of Covid-19 to now the job hasn’t changed that much.

“And fundamentally it’s the same thing, you just don your PPE and get on with it.”

Richard Webb, Executive Director for Health and Adult Services, said: “Key workers in North Yorkshire have helped to keep the county running since day one of the Coronavirus pandemic – and of course, they played a massive part before that.

“It’s incredible how our key workers have adapted so swiftly to brand-new ways of working. They play a very important role and for that I want to thank them.”