Covid-19 Updated Information for Independent Residents and Families

Important information for Middleton Woods and The Waterside

Coronavirus (Covid-19) update (21st May 2020)

Stay Safe

I am pleased to confirm that we continue to have no cases of Covid-19 amongst our residents or Co-owners (staff).  We do have one person waiting to join us who has had Covid-19 while working for another care provider who will not start until we are confident is clear from infection.  We have one Co-owner self-isolating as a precaution despite testing negative as a household member had tested positive.

With the first steps towards easing of lockdown, there has been a lot of confusion about the new guidance and regulations.  Figures released over the weekend indicate that the north east has the highest infection rate in the country at present so we need to continue to be vigilant.

There have been more visitors to the retirement village over the last week which does increase risk.  Our own guidelines through the e-bulletins have aimed to discourage visitors during lockdown, apart from dropping in essential supplies in line with government regulations.  However, under the revision to The Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) Regulations 2020 last week, we have now been advised that it is actually likely to be an offence for people to visit a retirement community like Middleton Hall as they are private grounds rather than a defined public space.  However, we will continue to take balanced view and not be as rigid as many other retirement villages where visitors have been entirely stopped, but we do need to urge caution – this means observing social distance, not going inside Middleton Woods (expect where prior arrangements have been agreed) and keeping visits brief.  The table and chairs outside of Middleton Woods should be used with social distance for up to 15 minutes and we would ask that they are disinfected after use (suitable wipes are being provided).

We do insist that people do not to bring in any food or drink to share with residents (some sort of a socially distanced picnic) as it significantly increases the risk of someone asymptomatic passing on the infection.  I hope everyone will appreciate that our first duty is to keep our community safe.  As other retirement villages have sadly found, Covid-19 rarely is confined to one person when the virus has entered a community.

You will find attached to this email our “Stay Safe” guide to accompany the Stay Safe pack of PPE that we will be providing for your use if you go out to any shops.  Further packs are available at £3.  Some of our more theatrical Co-owners have kindly produced a short video explaining how to safely put on PPE when going to a shop:

Stay safe using your Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

A query was raised about emergencies during the pandemic.  Should any resident be in a situation necessitating the use of the emergency call system, we would expect the procedure to work in a relatively normal way – whoever you speak with would make an assessment of the situation and decide whether to call 999 for an ambulance.  Should a member of our team need to attend your property, they would be using PPE including a face mask to ensure safety.

During the next few weeks, if government lockdown is further relaxed and we feel that the community is being kept safe we will start to look at when we could bring some limited services back in – housekeeping, further exercise opportunities or even some socially distanced outside coffee and snacks.  We may only be able to offer this to residents who are able to declare they have been genuinely keeping safe in line with government guidance.

We are trialling a Visitor’s Pod in the Conservatory from this weekend for the care services.  If the trial proves successful and safe, we would be open to making a version available for Middleton Woods and the Waterside.

If you have any ideas or thoughts about other initiatives during this difficult time, please let us know.

Thank you for working with us in helping Middleton Hall to Stay Safe.

Jeremy Walford

Managing Director

Important information for Middleton Woods and The Waterside

Coronavirus (Covid-19) update (13th May 2020)

Last Friday marked 75 years since the end of six terrible years of war in Europe – VE Day.  Over the last three months we have been fighting our own world war with a deadly, but very different enemy – Coronavirus.  So far, thanks to the efforts of all our Co-owners and support of our residents and families, we have kept Covid-19 out of Middleton Hall, unlike many care homes and retirement villages throughout the country.

The good news is that we continue to have no cases of Covid-19 amongst our residents or Co-owners (staff).  The majority of Co-owners and residents have been tested and results are all negative so far.

There is a new government portal for testing that has been announced which we are hoping will make testing easier and allow us to test residents and care teams weekly going forward.  We have asked for Independent Living residents to be included in the testing programme.

Regular testing is one key part of reducing the risk of one of us bringing Covid-19 into Middleton Hall, but it is not a guarantee.  The easing of lockdown during May and June increases the risk as more people outside Middleton Hall are exposed to the infection.

We are therefore introducing a number of measures to alleviate that increased risk for our Co-owners.  There are also some cautionary measures that we would like to introduce for Middleton Woods and The Waterside:

  • Encourage residents to avoid going out from Middleton Hall as much as possible, particularly to go to supermarkets but use online deliveries if possible and /or increase groceries shopping through MH.
  • Provide each property a “Stay Safe” pack – a brief about maintaining safety and a PPE pack (gloves and mask) if residents are going to go out of the retirement village to go to any shops – supermarkets especially. We will provide a starter pack free but there will then be a small cost of further packs
  • Greater vigilance about social distancing at all times

The government have relaxed moving house restrictions this week and we will allow new residents to move in following testing, suitable precautions about moving and a period of self-isolation.

We are concerned about the risks from visitors during the epidemic to the Waterside and Middleton Woods that are outside the government guidance.  Several retirement villages have enforced a far stricter “no visitors” policy having had the unfortunate experience of residents contracting Covid-19 through visitors.  As we have remained Covid-free, it would be easy for us to become complacent at this time of increasing risk.

Going forward we would like to have some flexibility around visitors but would like to be crystal clear that if family members are going to visit they must maintain social distance (two metres) and stay outside properties at all times.  We realise this is more difficult for first floor properties in Middleton Woods so are planning to put some socially distanced seating outside by the end of this week.

For our care services this has also been a difficult challenge.  We are looking into a solution that we believe is within government guidelines by installing an experimental safe visitors’ booth in the conservatory next to the restaurant.

Some of you may have seen an article on the BBC website about a care home in Holland that had installed a visitors’ pod https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/world-europe-52589041/coronavirus-dutch-care-home-reunites-families-in-a-glass-pod.

There are some details to be worked out still and we hope to have this ready for a trial at the end of next week.  If it proves successful and safe, we will look at providing similar facilities in the care services in the following weeks.  If there are residents who are strictly shielding (i.e. have an NHS letter instructing them not to go out) or uncomfortable about outside, socially distanced visiting we could look at the feasibility and costing of providing an equivalent safe visiting area for independent living.  Please let us know if this is something that would be of interest.

Next week, we will be opening the Art Studio for individual use (a resident or household) by appointment.  Sessions will need to be booked through reception.

Having done well to avoid an outbreak of Covid-19 at Middleton Hall so far, we are now entering a key period of time when we need to keep our guard up to keep residents safe while at the same time trying to find ways of improving how they are living during the pandemic.  Working with residents and families will be key to achieving that balance.

Thank you all for your support and kind comments about the efforts of our committed and caring Co-owners (keep the comments coming – the team really appreciate them!).

Best wishes

Jeremy Walford

Managing Director

Important information for Middleton Woods and The Waterside

Coronavirus (Covid-19) update (6th May 2020)

As you will be aware, since the last bulletin there has been a significant change in the availability of testing for Covid-19 in social care and for essential workers.  Four residents in our care services were tested for Coronavirus last week where we had some concerns about symptoms through the District Nursing service which all came back negative.

At the end of last week, we were able to get home test kits for all remaining care service residents and over the weekend completed those tests as part of the roll out of general testing in social care.  We have some initial test results back including a number where we have been asked to do a re-test because the test has not worked.  There is also one received today, with a “borderline indication” where it was insufficient to confirm presence of Covid-19 which we are treating as a potential Coronavirus case until the re-test result is known.  We understand from other care providers that these home tests are often coming back as needing a re-test.

We have been told informally through NHS contacts, that there is now evidence that older people do not always show the “classic symptoms” of Covid-19 (high temperature and dry cough) but present with other symptoms (lethargy, loss of appetite or delirium for example).  We have produced new symptoms guidance for all our care teams and are being cautious about any unexplained changes in a resident’s health, hence some of the tests last week.

Testing for social care staff is now available for anyone with or critically without symptoms.  We are asking all our Co-owners (staff) to have a test and most have managed to get a test booked so far.  As you will be aware from the media, availability is difficult.  It is not currently clear how access to regular testing will work, but at least this is finally going in the right direction and should make managing the situation easier.  One of our Co-owners who tested negative herself, has had a family member test positive (without any symptoms), so she is self-isolating as a precaution.

We introduced face masks for teams in our care services last week as an additional precaution mentioned in the last bulletins.  Although this has presented some challenges for our care teams, our Co-owners have embraced this as helping to protect residents.

We have asked the government through ARCO (Retirement Village Association) for access to testing for our independent living residents.  I am also involved with an ARCO working party liaising with the Department of Health and Social Care about how lockdown is eased and the implications for our sector.

We are currently discussing our next steps, in light of government announcements due at the end of the week about lockdown.  Our plan going forward will include what we can do to help any sense of isolation that residents are feeling and whether there is any way of safe, socially distanced visiting in due course.  We appreciate the support from residents and families about visitors but also recognise this is unlikely to be sustainable if the pandemic continues for months rather than weeks.

Our newly introduced outdoor exercise classes have proved popular and we will continue to look at how exercise can be safely encouraged.  Many residents enjoyed the Sri Lankan night on Saturday and Ryan and his team are looking at repeating themed takeaways on a fortnightly basis.

Following suggestions in our recent survey, Michael Hodgson, our Living Well Manager, is organising an experimental YouTube quiz on Friday in the evening.  More details on that to follow.

If you have any questions or concerns, please do let us know.  In the meantime, thank you again for your forbearance at this time.

Jeremy Walford

Managing Director

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Important information for Middleton Woods and The Waterside

Coronavirus (Covid-19) update (27th April 2020)

I am pleased that we are still able to confirm that we still have no cases of Covid-19 amongst any of our residents or Co-owners (staff) currently.

The challenge for all of us going forward is about getting the balance right between reducing the risk of infection and resident welfare.  With this in mind, Michael and the Middleton Spa team are trying out some socially distanced exercise classes this week to try and help residents keep fit and active during the pandemic.

For the Waterside, they will take place on the bowling green and for Middleton Woods on the patios and balconies – do let us have some feedback on the classes and any other ideas you have for exercise.  As you know, the bowling green and golf is already available on a booking basis for limited numbers.

Our catering team are also trying a different type of meal service at the weekend with a Sri Lankan takeaway delivery.  If this proves popular and we get it to work, we will try other versions of the service to add variety to the hot meals available.

There has been a lot of media coverage about the UK’s problems with PPE (Personal Protective Equipment).  We have been working hard on securing ongoing supplies of PPE (face masks, gloves, aprons and surgical gowns) over the last month and have a reasonable stock situation, primarily in the event that we have cases of Covid-19.  We also have a good stock of visors including some donated by local companies.

Having consulted our care teams over the last week, we are introducing the wearing of face masks for anyone working in close proximity to residents in our care services this week as an added precaution.  This does not apply to our Co-owners working in reception, catering or any of our support services at this stage.

So far as testing, we now have easier access to Covid-19 testing for all Co-owners and at least care service residents in the event of anyone showing symptoms.

Finally, we would appreciate your continuing help in dealing with this crisis – if you have some ideas that would either help reduce our risk of Covid-19 or that would help residents or Co-owners cope with the lockdown, please let us know.

With our continued thanks for your support during the last few weeks.

Jeremy Walford

Managing Director

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Important information for Middleton Woods and The Waterside

Coronavirus (Covid-19) update (18th April 2020)

First of all – thank you.  We appreciate the support we are getting from residents and families during this very challenging time.

We currently have no cases of Covid-19 amongst any of our residents or Co-owners (staff) and currently no one with likely symptoms.  We do have some Co-owners self-isolating because of either symptoms or family members with symptoms but we are managing with staffing levels thanks to the dedication of our team of Co-owners.

During the last week we admitted two residents from our care services on a precautionary basis into our Rainbow Centre as they had shown some initial symptoms but I am pleased to report they are both well and moved back to their respective services after 7 days self-isolating.  As this turned into a “dress rehearsal” it has allowed us to learn from using the new facility converted from Middleton Spa and adjust procedures.  I worked a shift in the Rainbow Centre myself on Tuesday as one of our support team (assisting a qualified carer, Debby Lamont on this occasion).  I can report that as well as being very well organised by the Rainbow Centre team, I found it a very safe working environment for Co-owners and comfortable for residents.  It should provide us with the means to reduce spread in the case of an infection and care effectively for a resident with Covid-19.

There have been some developments at national level that are having impact on Middleton Hall.  The good news is that we are now able to access testing for Coronavirus for our Co-owners and in due course residents (initially in care services), something that we have been asking for since the beginning of March.  The less good news has been about the national PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) shortage and the constantly changing advice on use of PPE from Public Health England.  We currently hold sufficient stock for immediate needs as we have been actively working on holding a buffer stock for the last month.

We had a good response to our survey last week – thank you to everyone who contributed.  Those who had specific queries and put their name should have had a response during the week.

The responses confirmed that although “frustrating/sad/difficult”, residents feel “reassured/safe/fortunate” to be at Middleton Hall.  There were high levels of satisfaction in the initiatives that we have taken so far including information provided, hot meals and shop delivery service.  You also provided some lovely comments that we have fed back to all our Co-owners.

There were some useful ideas that we would like to share or are implementing including:

  1. Create a “Covid Corner” where post/deliveries stay in quarantine for 72 hours (good idea)
  2. Disinfecting bins/shopping (please action as per last bulletin)
  3. Concern over trespassers in the grounds (notices are up)
  4. Concern over visitors in Middleton Woods (see below)
  5. Exercise on site only (would be sensible)
  6. Quizzes (digitally)/pub style quiz (we will try and provide some)
  7. Facetime or Zoom between residents (good idea)
  8. Spa organised exercise classes (being introduced)
  9. Middleton Woods – MH housekeeper (in place)
  10. Proactive phone calls to residents (in place)

In response to specific questions raised:

  1. Residents should not use the Garden Room to meet up
  2. We have gone back to “Safe Zone” corridor disinfection liquid in Middleton Woods which is anti-viral
  3. Yes, we will look to add to the shop items mentioned
  4. Yes, we can collect milk bottles – please put them out when deliveries are being made

There is concern raised about visitors in Middleton Woods.  We need to be clear about government and Middleton Hall policy on this.  All residents over 70 should be shielded and that means self-isolating and not having any visitors in their property except for essential care.  Government requirements about essential travel do allow families to drop off food and essential deliveries – for residents with ground floor access this should be outside their property and for the first floor in Middleton Woods it should be outside the main entrance.  We realise that this is difficult and we are very grateful for the understanding of families and friends about not visiting Middleton Hall.

In our last bulletin, we shared the sad situation in another retirement village where the daughter of a resident chose to ignore both government guidance and the retirement village’s “no visitors” policy and visited her mother.  It turned out that the daughter was infectious with Covid-19 and her mother died as a result.  We all know the virus is spread very easily and one visitor could inadvertently infect multiple residents.

We also advise strongly against residents going out of Middleton Hall wherever possible.  Certain supermarkets are now prioritising over 70s and we will be contacting them in the next few days to try and increase the delivery services.  If there are additional items you would like us to stock through the Middleton Hall shop we are happy to add to the range if we can.

Thank you for all your words of encouragement to our team during the pandemic – keeping the morale of our team as high as possible is important and your comments really help.

If you have any queries or ideas, please let us know.

In the meantime, please stay safe at home.

Jeremy Walford

Managing Director

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Important information for Middleton Woods and The Waterside

Coronavirus (Covid-19) update (9th April 2020)

I am relieved to let you know that so far we have had no cases of Covid-19 amongst any of our residents or Co-owners and currently no one with likely symptoms.  We do have some Co-owners self-isolating because they are in the vulnerable category or in some cases where they have had symptoms of a cold but we feel our cautious approach has worked so far.

During this week we have carried out a further analysis of risk and are tightening up on a few areas to further reduce risk of an infection coming into Middleton Hall.  In effect, we are trying to maintain a shield around the whole community.

The main areas of risk for independent living residents are around visiting shops or supermarkets, deliveries without infection control measures, visitors, hospital appointments and any homecare/District Nurse services coming in.  There is also one specific risk that we have identified for The Waterside – bins.  We already have measures in place to disinfect the Middleton Woods bins however we are concerned that refuse collectors may not be able to use infection control measures with their gloves and handling of bins around The Waterside.  They will have handled many bins around Darlington by the time they reach Middleton Hall and could transfer infection in this way.

Please make sure that you have either disinfected the bin handle and lid or used disposable gloves to bring your bin/box in and washed your hands thoroughly afterwards.

One additional request – if you use disposable wipes of any kind, please put in the normal rubbish, not down WCs (we have had our main drain badly blocked this week with wipes).

We are grateful for the understanding of families and friends about not visiting Middleton Hall.  We are in regular contact with the other retirement communities in the UK to share information. Last Friday I learnt of a sobering situation in a retirement village in another part of the country where the daughter of a resident chose to ignore both government “stay at home” guidance and the retirement village’s “no visitors” policy and visit her mother.  It turned out that the daughter’s husband had contracted Covid-19.  Sadly, her mother died at the retirement village last week and they now have other cases.

We appreciate that Easter weekend is upon us and understand that it would be tempting to ignore the “stay at home” government requirement.  It is critical that we continue to avoid visitors.  It is not often I find myself quoting the Queen, but her point during her address to the nation about being “united and resolute” in order to overcome the disease seemed well made and certainly applies to the team spirit at Middleton Hall.

As in previous bulletins, we would suggest that video calling is the best way to maintain contact.  Using Zoom, Skype, Facetime, WhatsApp video calls does make a difference.  I mentioned last week that I was attending a “virtual drinks party” on Zoom.  I can report that it worked well and I also watched the Virtual Grand National with family and friends that I was due to be with at Aintree last Saturday and completed a families’ quiz game over the weekend on Zoom.  Where there is a will, there is a way.

You will be aware that there has been rather greater focus in the press about the pressures on social care in the last week and we are also aware of some very difficult and sad situations especially in care homes and with homecare at present. We continue to work hard to try and avoid the risks that could develop into those situations.

During this week, we have set up our “Rainbow Centre” (named by the Co-owners who would work there) in Middleton Spa in the event of an outbreak of Covid-19 within one of our care services.  This provides a 3 bed and a 2 bed “ward” as well as a single room to allow us to look after confirmed cases and keep them separate from other residents.  We asked our Co-owners for volunteers to work in the Rainbow Centre if necessary and impressively had more than we need volunteering.  The volunteers are undergoing training at present.  In addition, there are two self-isolating rooms set up within the main building.  Obviously, we are hoping to never use these facilities, but they are now there if needed.  We are also at least adequately prepared with PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) as we acquired supplies some time ago.

Our plan for leaseholders who fall ill remains for residents to stay in their properties, inform us and use external care.  However, if someone is seriously ill with Covid-19, we may be able to care for them in the Rainbow Centre.

We are delighted in how well the shop ordering service and hot meal delivery service are being used.  As explained last week, from this Friday 10th April we are moving to a new weekly shop ordering and delivery service to better manage demand.  There will be essential top ups in between.

Finally, in order to plan ahead, we would like a little feedback on how you are coping and how we are responding to the Coronavirus crisis as well as any thoughts on how we can help.  You will find a link below to a 5 minute survey to give us some feedback and ask for ideas going forward.

https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/XRMZJHV

Thank you very much for your support during this crisis.

If you have any queries or thoughts, please email or call reception for further information.

Please stay safe.

Jeremy Walford

Managing Director

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Important information for Middleton Woods and The Waterside

Coronavirus (Covid-19) update (2nd April 2020)

Since our last update, as you are all aware the pandemic has escalated and the country is now on complete “lockdown”.

I am pleased to report that we are still managing to operate our services with limited disruption thanks to the efforts of our Co-owners.  Thank you to those who have emailed their gratitude – it has been very good for our team morale (so please continue to let them know!).

Clearly we will be in a position of lockdown for some time, so we will continue to work with residents and families to alleviate the difficulty this entails. We would continue to suggest avoiding any visitors, in line with government requirements for “shielding”.

We have revised the shop ordering and delivery service to better manage demand so that from Friday 9th April, we will be moving towards a weekly main order with essential top ups in between.

Please be wary about any deliveries to ensure that social distancing and infection control measures are in place.  So far as newspapers, we would recommend (with apologies to newsagents) digital papers.  I can personally report that I have subscribed to a digital version of a newspaper on my iPad and to my surprise, actually prefer it to a physical paper.  We continue to encourage video calling with friends and families through iPads, smart phones and tablets.  We have bought Kindle Fires for residents in our care services which are inexpensive (£60 from Amazon) and easy to use.  If you want help in setting them up, we can get someone to call you to advise.

Internally, we have been using “Zoom” for meetings, available on PCs or as an app on tablets or smart phones.  They can also be used to host social events – I am attending a “virtual drinks party” at the weekend and a family team game of “Linkee” (no idea how that will work!).  Residents might like to try that out this sort of technology between themselves.  If you would like any advice, please let reception know.

As the next stage in our planning, should we have an outbreak of Covid-19, we are setting up a “Covid Care Centre” in Middleton Spa to allow us to look after confirmed cases from the care services and keep them separate from the rest of the residents.  Hopefully, we will never have to use it.  Our plan for leaseholders would be for residents to stay in their properties, inform us and use external care.  However, if someone is seriously ill with Covid-19, we may be able to care for them in our Covid Care Centre.

Thank you again for your support at this time.  I can assure you that we will continue to try and keep the focus on reducing risk and acting pragmatically in taking a precautionary approach.

If you have any queries or ideas, please email or call reception for further information.

Yours sincerely

Jeremy Walford

Managing Director

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Coronavirus – Update for all residents and families (24th March 2020)

Government Measures

The government announcement about the countrywide lockdown last night has instructed everyone to stay at home under strict controls for the next three weeks.  (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-51711227)

During this period of “lockdown”, we will be following the government measures carefully and stopping all visits, unless in exceptional circumstances.  This will help reduce the possibility of anyone bringing the virus into Middleton Hall.  There is a local care home that now has two confirmed cases of Coronavirus, probably brought inadvertently by a visitor, so we will continue to be very careful to reduce any risks of potential infection.

Currently we believe that we are as well organised as we can be for the situation and although we have several Co-owners (staff) self-isolating as a precaution, we have no confirmed cases.  Our Co-owners are doing a great job in frankly very difficult circumstances and I am extremely grateful for their hard work and dedication.  Please feel free to let them know (by email or telephone) if you agree – feedback is a great morale boost!

There are a number of ways that we will try and make this easier (in addition to the measures that we have previously communicated over the last few weeks):

  • We have extended the range of items available from Middleton Hall’s shop
  • We have ordered 10 tablets, in addition to the iPads that we already have, to make video calling through Skype more accessible for residents and families – they are due to arrive this weekend, so should be set up ready by Monday in each service.  We suggest that video calling is the best way for families to remain in touch and will try and make it as easy as possible for residents
  • We have ordered some additional telephone handsets as we have found some of the telephones in rooms were missing

If you have any questions or ideas, please preferably email (as they are very busy) or telephone reception.  As a reminder the direct dial numbers for our Care Services are:

Middleton Grove 01325 331443

Middleton Gardens 01325 331441

Middleton Court 01325 331442

Middleton Oaks 01325 331445

Thank you for your support and encouragement in dealing with the pandemic.

Please keep yourself and your family safe at this incredibly difficult time.

Jeremy Walford