ellenor – the charity supporting those with life-limiting illnesses and their families – doesn’t count ‘unsung heroes’ among its staff. This is because each person who works for the charity is acknowledged and celebrated as an essential part of the ellenor team. The Housekeepers who ensure the hospice ward is safe and clean and that linen is freshly laundered have never been more essential than they are in the face of coronavirus. Michelle Aldous tells us about her day-to-day role.
“My story of getting involved with ellenor isn’t unusual: like a lot of us, I began volunteering here when my children were older, and I had more time. I’ve always been aware of ellenor as my local charity and it looked like an interesting place to be involved with. Then I got offered a part-time job and for the past five years I’ve worked here full time. I’m the only one working on that basis, although we are a team of five, plus we still have volunteers who help us – there’s a lady who comes in every week to iron all the sheets for us, for instance. A lot of us have worked here for years: I’ve been here for ten. Why do we stay? I think it must be because there’s always something going on, lots of good chat and a sense that you’re doing something worthwhile.
Of course, since the Covid-19 lockdown things have been different – and it’s hard not to feel more isolated at work at the moment, simply because we can’t chat with patients and their families in the same sort of way as we did before because of social distancing. We’re all wearing masks, gloves and aprons all the time, which makes communication that much harder because our voices are muffled. We’ve certainly been very fortunate with PPE [Personal Protection Equipment], though – with plenty from the get-go and lots of donations, so we never had to worry about being well protected.
In terms of hygiene, we’re talking not so much about a rethink, but more of the same. Washing is still collected every morning, but now everything – not just heavily soiled items – goes onto a boil wash. We’ve always had the very highest standards of hygiene here at ellenor, which means that the place is a spotless. Often patients and their families will joke that our standards are even higher than the ones they have in their own homes when they’re looking after their sick relatives. It’s said in a light-hearted way, but we all know how vital good hygiene is in ensuring as far as possible that our vulnerable patients don’t pick up any infections. They and their families need to know that we always clean extremely thoroughly and carefully – it means one less thing for them to worry about.
Because of the way Covid-19 spreads, we clean areas we’ve always cleaned – door handles, for example – even more frequently than we did before and using a very effective product called Ultrabac. And of course, we don’t just clean the areas that are visible, we clean everywhere: patient’s spaces, staff and office spaces, communal spaces. For instance, keyboards are cleaned twice a day, and our fitted lights are regularly taken down and cleaned inside and out in case anything’s got caught in there – it’s not something visitors will ever see, but that certainly doesn’t mean it’s not essential to clean them.
I know that by doing my job, I’m adding to patients’ safety, comfort and wellbeing. I think it’s the fact that we’re all working together to make a real difference that explains the lovely atmosphere here at ellenor. It’s a place that’s about people and putting them and their needs first, and I’m very happy to be a part of that.”