By Ahmed Lamine Camara, Adult Services Program

Caring for residents with mental health issues during the Corona pandemic is a daunting task and incredibly challenging. However, with the right plan in place and the staff to execute it, this daunting task becomes a little easier. Today, I’m going to share some of the ways that our Adult Services residential team at Meson adapted to support our residents and our staff.

When the pandemic started to spread, Meson residents were just as worried as the staff who provide services to them on a daily basis. Residents had many questions as to why they were now confined to their apartments and not allowed to visit family or have guests. Our team started to brainstorm how to better provide continued quality service for our residents given their now more isolated experience. Having strong teamwork and compassion for one another makes a difference. We joined together around our responsibility for caring for residents during this global crisis. We assured each other that no matter how difficult the task, we would stick together and support each other to achieve  success. Then, the staff held open discussions with residents regarding the pandemic. Creating an on-going dialogue helped calm residents down and deter negative behaviors.

Then, we put in a systemic plan. Staff and residents took their temperature daily, wore facial mask, practiced proper hand washing, and sanitized surfaces and other commonly used areas and items. Telephones, keys, pens, computers, computer mouse, keyboards, door handles, doorknobs were all frequently cleaned. Staff encouraged the residents to limit ordering out from the restaurants in order to have less contact with people coming from the outside. Having food delivered is a treat, so we coordinated to have food delivered once a week. Trying to keep some things to feel more normal is very important for our residents.

Since residents have been restricted from leaving the site (except for medical reasons) and not have visitors, our staff continues to food shop for residents, assists with laundry as needed, and most of all keeps the flow of communication going. It’s hard to feel isolated during a stressful time, so our team helps and encourages residents to contact family members and friends via video call.

Another big factor that has encouraged the team not to crack is the support staff continues to receive from CGRC administrators. Child Guidance has been providing to staff more than enough Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) to ensure the safety of staff and the residents they support. The continued provision of the PPEs is also a moral booster for the staff because it makes them feel like they can operate without fear. CGRC continues to hold team briefing meetings three times a week to address site and residents’ concerns. The team also continues to incorporate humor and plenty of laughter to relax and calm nerves down. Even when some residents tested positive for Covid-19, the team remained steadfast and showed no signs of panic.

Overall, we’ve learned that with the right team in place, constant and positive communication, enough PPEs and a plan in place agreed on and carried out by all, the pandemic can be effectively combated.

About the author: Ahmed Lamine Camara works in our Adult Services program and has been with Child Guidance since 2006. He has 22 years of experience working with people with intellectual disabilities, at risk youths, and individuals with mental illness. In his free time, he enjoys traveling, cooking, music, sports, comedy, and spending time with his wife and two children.