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Abbeyfield Grove House Ilkley

A Coronavirus Diary

These entries are extracted from a blog
(which is currently off-line)
about my mother's stay at the
Residential Unit at Abbeyfield's
Grove House in Ilkley
Names have been changed


Our Values Are Openness, Honesty, Respect, Caring

3 March 2020
Went along to Abbeyfield, Ilkley. There was a letter lying on the table in Mum’s room.
It was addressed to me, a notice from the administrators advising that next year’s rent increase is to be a whopping 13%.
Thing is, the rest of the letter stated that the general increase in rents would be 3.5%.
It took a couple of phone calls to different managers before I learned it was a mistake – her room had been confused with someone else’s.

11 March 2020
With the coronavirus creating alarm across the country, I email Eena to ask if Abbeyfield have a policy on the virus.

13 March 2020
At midday a letter arrives from the Abbbeyfield CEO. It states that he is awaiting a Government decision on the coronavirus crisis.
Then, notwithstanding the fact that Government policy is that healthy people should continue to visit their relatives in care homes, Christine phones at just before 7 in the evening telling us that Grove House is now in lockdown.
There are to be no visits by relatives. A drastic, but sensible move.

29 May 2020
Eena calls to say that testing for the virus is in progress, as per government policy. She has decided not to give Mum, and a few others, the test because it is quite invasive and might distress them.
Nobody at Grove House has tested positive. So far.
This, we think, is quite an achievement given that around a third of all the care homes in the district are supposed to be infected.
As well as doing all the right things to combat the virus, it is clear that Abbeyfield has also been very lucky. We know of an expensive care home nearby that closed to visitors at the end of February, a full two weeks before Grove House. Yet they have suffered six deaths – all because the local hospital discharged infected patients back to the home.

5 June 2020
During the past 3 months or so, Abbeyfield Grove House has kept us in the loop with sporadic updates in the form of newsletters.
We hope that when the crisis is all over, we won’t be shunted back into their usual information siding.
We speak regularly to the staff on the Unit. They always sound upbeat and tell us that Mum is doing well.
With no hint from the Government about an end to the lockdown, it was quite a surprise to be offered an appointment to see Mum in the courtyard, subject to stringent hygiene conditions.
The day turned out to be bitterly cold. We were given blankets to cocoon us and ushered into a gazebo pitched in the courtyard.
There was a box of masks and bottles of sanitiser on a table. It was all nicely-organised. As ever, the members of staff we encountered were chatty and cheery. Considering the enormous strain they must be under, they do an amazing job.
Mum was wheeled in. She didn’t look in the least surprised to be confronted by two masked individuals sitting 2 metres distant.
She immediately launched into a lecture on healthy eating. Meat, she declared, is important but only in small quantities. It is best eaten “when it’s nearly dead”.

30 July 2020
This year we could not celebrate Mum’s 105th with her because it fell on a Sunday, when visits are not allowed.
Christine told us there would be a 'do', with a cake, in the Residents’ Lounge that day. It actually took place the following afternoon. We were promised pictures of the event.
Well, we visited Mum under the gazebo yesterday. There were no pictures, but Ivy did bring the Queen’s birthday card for us to see. I showed it to Mum. She saw that it was the Queen on the front but couldn't make out the text. When we read her the message, she was none the wiser.
The sides of the gazebo had been lifted, so she could see the whole of the courtyard. With its parasol tables it looked a bit like a cafe by the beach, although the tables were empty and nobody brought cups of tea.
Mum thought the service was very poor. She would not go back to this tea room, she declared.
Fed up with waiting, she asked, "Can I go home now?"

3 August 2020
Following the Government’s relaxation of the rules, we can now visit Mum in her room.
At Reception, our temperatures were taken. Mine was a chilly 35.3ºC. Someone came to escort us to the Residential Unit, to make sure we didn't linger and didn't touch anything. Once in Mum's room, we were instructed not to leave.
Mum was relaxed, going on about being a tour guide in London (Parliament etc). She appeared to recognise me and seemed fairly compos mentis. She looked at me and said I was very dark and she couldn't see me properly; she complained about the TV being dark: her eyesight must be quite bad now.
Because we have to book in advance, our visits can now be predicted. The result, we note with amusement, is that Mum’s room is noticeably cleaner and tidier than it has ever been. Today, even her tray, normally encrusted with food gunge, was fresh and clean. The DVDs were tidied away in a drawer and the clock was set to the right date.
The one thing that missed out on the deep clean was the TV remote: it was caked in grime - until I attacked it with a baby wipe.
When our allotted hour was over, we waited for an escort, but nobody came. It turned out that the duty staff assumed we would leave and make our own way downstairs.
Looking for clarification on the procedures, I emailed, the only email address Abbeyfield publishes.
As ever, there was no response, so I guessed the CEO's email address and asked him the question.
Two days later, the CEO, Phil Birkinshaw, sent an apology saying, "things haven't been as clear to you and our staff as they should be and I ask that you take a flexible approach when visiting".

5 August 2020
Frustrated about the lack of pictures of Mum's birthday party, I email Eena about them. Five minutes later, she sends across 3 photos of Mum with the cake in front of her.
This crisis, one which severely restricts access to our relative, hasn't prompted Grove House managers to improve their communications.
The phone system is as bad as it was when we started visiting 10 years ago: this afternoon we took it in turns to dial the Residential Unit. We eventually got an answer in the early evening, 4 hours later.

28 September 2020
For almost 3 months we were able to see Mum outside, under the gazebo, on a weekly basis. Then, when the Government relaxed the restrictions, we have been able to see her in her room. But from mid-September the Government imposed a local lockdown and Grove House brought back its own restrictions.
Visits were again restricted to the gazebo.
And now comes the news we’ve been dreading since March – two people, both residents, have tested positive for Covid19.
We are banned from all visits.

5 October 2020
Good news. Through the gravevine we learn that the two residents who tested positive last week have no symptoms and are OK. And everyone else who was tested last week, including Mum, is negative. Outdoor visits can continue.

20 October 2020
When we try to book a visit to see Mum, nobody, not even the switchboard, answers the phone for over an hour. This is because, we learn, everyone is at a meeting.
The subject of discussion is probably the fact that four Covid test results have not been returned by the testing company. The four people involved will have to be tested again and until negative results are returned, nobody can visit.
I get all this from Thelma, the ever-efficient receptionist.
Abbeyfield never issued an official notification of the ban.
The CEO later wrote that the problem (of the missing test results) has been “escalated to an Investigations Team”. We take this to mean that the test results have got lost.
To add to the impression of chaos at the testing centres, a member of staff told Pam that a friend of hers booked a test in Bradford and went to the test centre in her lunch break. There was a huge queue in front of her so, having limited time to spare, she went back to work without getting the test.
3 days later she got a text message telling her she had tested positive!

30 October 2020
With another lockdown due we book to see Mum in the gazebo. At the gate a nurse slipping out for a fag lets us in. There are two empty parking spaces so I ask if I can park the car but she refuses. So I drop Pam off, drive round to the main car park then walk back to the gate, which is closed again. While I wait for Reception to answer the intercom and unlock the gate, a maintenance man comes by and lets me in. The entire process has taken nearly 10 minutes out of the appointed hour.
In the gazebo there is no sanitising fluid and no masks, like there were last time. Pam is wearing a mask, which Mum thinks is a bandage. Quite reasonably, she tells Pam she hopes her face will get better soon. Mum isn’t wearing a mask.
She is in full flow, chattering about the benefits of living in Scotland (the climate is much warmer there), seldom noticing our responses. She has no idea who I am and thinks Pam is a cousin.
She has been well wrapped up but her hands are bare and the temperature is only 10ºC. Looking up, we can see what might be a heater hanging from the roof. After 20 minutes the maintenance man passes by and asks if we would like the heater switched on. It’s on a 30 minute timer, he says. He disappears into the building and, moments later, a weak red glow washes over Mum. It’s directed at the resident’s chair so goes nowhere near us, but at least it should warm her up a bit.
Then, after only 30 seconds, the heater conks out and the autumn chill returns.
The only means of contacting the staff is by phone. So I call to say Mum is cold, asking for her to be taken back to her room. When Bridget and Jill appear they point at me, telling her, “this is your son, Stewart”. Taken aback, she peers at me: "Stewart? It’s my Stewart? I have a son Stewart. It doesn’t look like him. This one’s got no hair”.

4 November 2020
We get an update from Grove House telling us that there are to be no more visits either inside or outside. This, says the CEO, follows the Government guidance that came out when the latest nationwide lockdown was announced.
Unfortunately, the update is already out of date.
Following a judgement in the Court of Protection, the Government has just announced that visits to care home residents are allowed, subject to the usual precautions.

12 November 2020
The CEO wrote to tell us that up to two designated relatives can visit, though not at the same time. The staff, though, have interpreted this to mean that only one relative can be designated to visit. So I get the short straw and return to the gazebo alone, in Nippy November. This time the heater works fine. It does go off 10 minutes before the end of the session, but there’s a residue of heat that keeps our fingers above freezing point. Just.
The theme for the visit is care homes: “People are living longer but somebody's got to look after them. They've got homes galore for people who can hardly make a meal for themselves. It'll come to me some day I suppose but by that time I'll have no family left. Who's to look after me then?” (laughs)

24 November 2020
It has been a week since the CEO wrote to cancel all visits because of a Covid19 outbreak at the Grove House apartments. 7 residents tested positive. A "number of staff" were also infected.
We thought it a bit odd that the number of staff who tested positive was not specified, but perhaps the CEO thinks it's something we don't need to know.
As the latest batch of results from tests done on the 18th must have come back by now, Pam asked the Registered Manager if there is an update in the offing, so that we might learn when we can visit again.
She did not know.

3 December 2020
Some positive news at last: Abbeyfield are to install "pods" to allow relatives to visit their loved ones in comfort and safety.
Visits are due to start on the 14th.
I now have clarification, of sorts, of the visitor numbers rule. The CEO told me that "2 can visit at a time whilst attempting to keep that to 1 if possible to reduce the risk."
The latest update gave no information on last month's Covid19 outbreak.
Is it a case of No News Is Good News and it's now safe to visit again?
We don't know.

17 December 2020
As promised, a couple of pods have been installed and are ready for use.
Great, we thought, and enquired about a booking. But a senior carer dashed our hopes, saying Mum might be spooked by the pods, they are so small.
We don't know what they look like - a photo would have been helpful - but when someone else described them as 'coffins' we accepted that we won't be seeing Mum until the Government ease restrictions at Christmas.
Sadly, the day after we booked for the two of us to visit Mum on Christmas Eve, the CEO wrote saying that, "Only one of the two designated visitors will be allowed to visit at any time."

24 December 2020
I turn up, alone, to see Mum. The staff aren't aware of the CEO's recent instruction and are expecting the two of us.
Never mind - it's complicated enough just processing one person: issue a testing kit; give instructions on how to take a swab, whilst warning about the gagging reflex; get them to complete a paper contact form; get them to complete an electronic form (tricky if you're not used to using a smart-phone); wait 20 minutes for the test result; get them to don plastic gloves and an apron; and finally, lead them through the building to the designated visiting room.
Mum is slumped in her chair. My appearance perks her up and she starts chattering. Considering her future, she says, "I've got a good few years before I retire". She reads her cards and successfully pulls a couple of crackers, disappointed not to get the sections containing the prizes.

28 December 2020
Pam phoned to ask the Manager whether Mum coped with whatever was laid on for the residents on Christmas Day and if there are any photos. But she didn't know.

12 January 2021
The Government has just published its Guidelines for Visiting care homes during Covid-19.
Section 1.3 concerns policies on visiting. It says, "...those with power of attorney should be consulted, and ... must consent on the person’s behalf to the visiting policy".
All well and good, but I can't recall ever being consulted about anything.







Banking Tips for Power of Attorney accounts

Power of Attorney (POA) banking can be a fraught process, both time-consuming and stressful.
Banks have different rules on how POA accounts are opened and how they are operated.

Here are some notes on how those banks I’ve used deal with POA accounts.


Mansion Tax? - Valuation Office Mistakes     
Name Location Photo Tax Band Notes
Langley House   Bradford         G After a Tribunal hearing against their decision to impose a G banding on a modest house when a neighbouring mansion has an identical G banding, the VOA inspector said: "Well, Band G has a wide range"

Name aka Business Residence Rent Arrears Notes
Donatas Kukucionis  bobrov123 Ultimate Car Wash  Aberdeen  1 month  Tenant from Hell - used the house as a doss for all 6 of his Lithuanian car washers 
Audinga Metrikyte      Aberdeen  1 month Tenant from Hell's partner 

Review of Business Contact  Problem   Notes
WJ Surveyors
House surveys
PW This was a full building survey. The Surveyor did not see a severe woodworm infestation or an obvious damp patch. He said there was no electric light in the basement (where the woodworm is) and stored items were in the way. The Judge (yes, I sued) sympathised, claiming that the use of a headtorch in a restricted height cellar would have limited the surveyor's ability to identify the woodworm. See the full story here.
Pest control
Kenny Bell (Inspector) Rentokil reported mice droppings & prescribed a £200 annual course of treatment. The Council's Pest Control Officer said there were NO mice in the house.
When challenged, Rentokil's Inspector admitted he was "not 100% sure".
Secret Window 1865
Ebay Jasminka Spoljar-Rahim
Sells cheap, repro jewellery but pretends it is 'one-off', 'rare', 'vintage' or 'genuine' Described as 'Edwardian Suffragette' jewellery or 'Vintage Russian theater' jewellery once owned by her Godmother. 

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