We spoke to Salma Ndipa and Lesley Webb who have been working together at Suffolk Lodge. Salma has been redeployed from the Acorn Day service.

What have you been redeployed to do?

Salma: “I have worked at Acorn for eight years as a senior support worker. It is a day service that supports people with learning disabilities. I was redeployed to work on shifts supporting older people in the home with their personal care, washing, dressing, eating and drinking and activities. I have worked on the different units and learned all the new teams and new routines for each. It is a bit tricky getting used to weekend shifts and working this around my family. I have every Thursday off for my university studies and this is set aside on my rota.

Lesley: “The newly deployed staff have also helped customers with physio exercises and moving and assisting customers. Every unit is different as each person is different and has different routines, the new staff had to learn them all.”

How did you feel when you were first asked to redeploy?

Salma: I was going to a new place and didn’t know what to expect. I wondered “Am I going to do the job as expected?” At least I was still able to work and there was a job available for me to do. My first day was with Lesley in Oak, I shadowed her, stepped back and watched. The second day I was working in a different unit and stepped back and watched. By the second week I had become familiar with new routines, units and customers.”

What has it been like working with colleagues from different services?

Lesley: “The lovely thing about working with people in the same profession is they all have the skills to communicate. Because we are all like-minded they shadowed us to start and watched and learnt really quickly. We knew the staff were going to be here for the duration and having a person you know is far better than an agency worker. The beauty of having people who work in the same environment is that they understand it. We all work with people and we all have the compassion needed to do the job.”

Salma: “Overall I have enjoyed it, I have been learning more about dementia support and have been getting to see another Optalis service and how it works.”

What have you learnt?

Salma: “I’ve learnt how to use a parka bath, it was good to see and use it. I have worked with older people before, I’ve done a lot of different care work, but not dementia support.”

Lesley: “The downfall has been that there have been no visitors and no main activities in the lounge. So the new staff haven’t got to experience Suffolk Lodge at its best”

How have you found it?

Salma: “At the day centre from start to the end of the day is full on and non stop. I spend my time doing risk assessments, care plans, review packs. Here I have to do the support work and they have seniors to do the medication. It’s been good to slow down a bit.

How has the organisation as a whole responded to the pandemic to ensure employee safety and wellbeing?

Lesley explains: “We have never had any problem looking for masks or gloves or aprons. I have no complaints here, we’ve had a lot of support.”

Salma adds: “It’s improved a lot, we have everything we need to do our job. The second week I was here we were supporting people without protection (as per government guidelines) we didn’t have any equipment, it’s much better now.”

Has there been anything that surprised you?

Lesley: “Our world doesn’t change in here, the residents feel safe. I think there has been more acceptance than we expected. We were very surprised about a gentleman who goes out a lot, he has just accepted it and hasn’t even attempted to go to his usual shops.”

Are there any new ways of working you think you would continue?

Salma: We will make sure that we follow hygiene practices. I’ve learnt a lot about compassion working here. Because we are supporting the very elderly you learn to be calm and move at a slower pace. I’ve learnt that people do things when they are ready and at a different time. When I go back to the day centre, it’s fast-paced, and I will try to take the time to do things a bit slower so people can take time on things.