Every Thursday evening, it has become a treasured tradition for the residents of St Bridget’s Care Home in Rustington to go outside and take part in the clap for carers – occasionally joined by firefighters and paramedics.
And for those looking after them, the moment is doubly poignant: because the applause and cheers that fill the air are for them, too.
Deputy manager Michelle Lecheminant said: “For so long, care workers, bin men, bus drivers, haven’t been considered ‘important’ jobs when you have people like celebrities and footballers.
“But we are vitally important, because if we are not here, it doesn’t bear thinking about.
“We are dealing with our own emotions and insecurities as well as looking after the residents, and to be able to get up, come into work, do our job and go home knowing we have left people safe, well and happy: it is everything.”
The care home in Ilex Close, Rustington, has the capacity to care for 38 adults with physical disabilities and is run by the Leonard Cheshire charity.
Its founder and namesake, a former RAF pilot, took in a dying man in 1948 and nursed him. By the following year, he was looking after 24 residents with complex needs. By 1970, there were more than 50 services in the UK and five in India.
Since lockdown began, the charity’s spirit has been present stronger than ever at the home, rated ‘outstanding’ by the Care Quality Commission last year.
To circumvent family and friends not being able to visit, Michael Fordham from the activities team has set up video calls on the home’s iPads, and Linda White made a rainbow banner with residents that is on show in the front windows. One of the residents’ relatives owns a farm in the West Country, so staff have also set up a live feed to watch the animals.
As Covid-19 has wreaked havoc in many care homes, anxiety among staff has been high. Michelle said she had an ‘emotional breakdown’ shopping in Sainsbury’s, as bringing the disease into the home could have terrible consequences. But thankfully there have been no suspected cases, nor any mask, glove or apron shortages.
While there have been a lot of changes, including a drivers’ rota so staff do not use public transport, those living at the home have remained happy and healthy.
Michelle said: “I just want to say thank you to all of the staff. They are the most amazing team you have ever met.”