Who Cares if it’s Snowing?

Recent days in Scotland have been rather cold.

Now there is an understatement. 

It will come as no surprise that the weather has been extremely challenging for people right across Scotland. In several places, snow has been measured in feet rather than inches over the past week and this has had a huge impact on the transport and connectivity links that we normally take for granted. During this time countless people involved in care home, care at home and housing support have gone above and beyond to deliver care to those who are most vulnerable. Below we've gathered some stories of just what it has been like at the sharp end of the weather for those in the care sector. 

Guest Post from Annie Devlin, Care Assistant (Bluebird Edinburgh)

The snow is nearly all gone now on the street where I live. Just a few patches of compacted ice here and there. They'll be gone soon too. The thaw is nearly complete.
It was a different story over the last few days. Tuesday and Wednesday last week the skies opened and deluged the majority of Scotland with the white stuff. Here in Edinburgh the snow came down thick and fast, and the Amber Warning issued by the Met Office was upgraded to Red, soon the buses would stop running.
As Home Carers we still need to get to the homes of the vulnerable people we look after. Medications need to be given, continence pads must be changed, food and drink are essential. We have obligations.
Driving conditions were difficult and getting worse. I keep a bag of grit in my car. A handful or two in front of each tyre and wheels that had been uselessly spinning grip and move. A shovel (admission: I was using a dustpan) can dig away deeper snowfall at the roadside where the car has been parked. I lost count of the number of times members of the public came to my and my colleagues aid with a much needed push. There's nothing like extreme conditions to bring out the best in people.
But Thursday morning on the street where I live was different. 6:30 am and I was the only one up and about. The snow was so thick. I dug my car out but only got a few feet and got stuck. So, wellies on, overcoat, hat, scarf, gloves, and as my mother would have said, it was down to ‘Shank’s pony’. I set off on foot.

Guest Post from Jim Gatherum, Dumfries and Galloway Scottish Care Branch Chair

Our care home (Notwen House) is a small (24 bed) care home in the east of Dumfries and Galloway, situated between Lockerbie and Gretna.

We are situated in the very small village of Kirkpatrick Fleming and many of our staff team live in very remote areas, some on farms or in isolated locations.

The past few days have been very challenging for our Care Manager John Whitehouse as the extreme weather has caused significant challenges in terms of staff getting into and back from work- some travel over 15 miles to get to us.

On the morning of Wednesday 28 Feb, Gillian (our carer worker with 15 year’s experience in care) finished her night shift and set of for the 15-mile drive home. Along the way the snow intensified and she eventually had to abandon her car on the A7. This was a stressful and frightening experience for Gillian but despite this she was back on shift on Wednesday and Thursday nights – turning up 1 hour before each of those shifts were due to start -"so I am not late". Furthermore, Gillian volunteered to work extra shifts over the weekend to cover for sickness.

When  it became apparent that the weather conditions were proving to be extremely hazardous, we were independently approached by two local small businessmen who offered to collect staff and take them home at the end of their shifts. Neither knew of the other's kind offer and neither wanted any form of remuneration. Indeed, the snow was so bad on Wednesday evening that Graham’s (one of the local businessmen) 4x4 vehicle became stuck in the snow when collecting one of our care staff and he had to call out 2 of his men and tractors to pull them out. These kind volunteers have continued to venture out in all weathers to ensure we have a full staff compliment to be able to support the vulnerable old people in our care.

Lastly Kerry, another of our Carers, lives on a farm in Dumfries & Galloway and was due to work on Saturday evening and Sunday morning. Her house is surrounded by drift snow – some as high as 4 feet. She has a very young family but this did not deter her. Kerry developed a plan whereby her husband transported her by quad bike over several fields to meet with the aforementioned driver to take her into work. She offered to bring an overnight bag and sleep over so that she could be at work for 7am on Sunday morning.

Without real heroes, such as these we simply would not be able to continue to offer our frail and vulnerable residents the highest possible level of support – with the support of these heroes and the many other staff who have worked 12-14 hour shifts to ensure we have a full staff compliment at all times, our residents can look outside and enjoy the winter scenes and not have to worry about who is going to care for them.

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