With care homes in England continuing to seek safe ways to enable Covid-safe indoor visits from families and friends over Christmas and the winter months, Camelot Care have taken the plunge in providing bespoke visitor ‘pods’ for each of their homes and say these are being ‘hugely appreciated’ all round.

Millions of the new rapid Covid-19 test kits are due to be rolled out across the UK before Christmas, allowing the resumption of close-to-normal meetings between care home residents and their loved ones – and Camelot Care’s Wellington service is among the first to receive these – but their pods are still being ‘hugely appreciated’ by residents there, and at their other two care homes in Bridgwater and Plymouth.

Paul Teasdale, director of Camelot Care which has specialist dementia care homes in Somerset and Devon, said: “Being deprived of face-to-face contact with loved ones has been by far the toughest aspect of Covid for many of our residents – mainly because they find it very difficult to understand the need to keep a safe distance.

“Outdoor meetings are fine when the weather is good, but impractical for elderly people at this time of year, so we assessed all our homes and found a way to install a pod in each which would allow for Covid-safe conversations through a perspex screen.

“Residents and care staff access the pod from a door within the home, while the visitors’ entrance is directly accessible from outside to avoid the need for them to come into any other part of the home.

“Where necessary we have adjusted the landscaping in the grounds to allow safe and easy access for visitors in wheelchairs who may now be using an entrance they haven’t used before.

“The new arrangements mean that safe and comfortable meetings can take place without any interruptions from other staff or residents, and people can make the most of every precious minute with their loved ones.”

In accordance with industry guidelines, both sides of the pod are deep cleaned between each visit, and hand-sanitiser is provided.

Paul Teasdale said: “It’s still not ‘business as normal’ but the new pods are doing a lot to make our residents and their families and friends feel more positive about getting through the winter and seeing each other over the festive season.

“To ensure fair play for all, we have introduced an appointments system for meetings, plus a 30-minute time limit, set visiting times and a limit on the number of visits per week. While that sounds rather regulated it seems to be working very well and is appreciated by all. Everyone is just so happy to be able to continue to see each other despite the arrival of winter.

“And, of course, we’re continuing to offer online meet-ups for those residents who are able to enjoy those.

“Continuing contact with loved ones is essential to be emotional wellbeing of our residents – and their families – so we consider it to be an absolutely crucial part of our responsibility to do what we can to help keep this going in a safe way.”