Covid-19: Mother and daughters moved into nursing home to tend to elderly residents

‘It was so difficult to see families standing at the windows, looking at their loved ones’

Clare Guinan (centre) and her daughters Megan and Lauren who moved into Bartra Healthcare’s Loughshinny Nursing Home four weeks ago to help protect the residents against Covid-19. Photograph: Crispin Rodwell/The Irish Times

Clare Guinan (centre) and her daughters Megan and Lauren who moved into Bartra Healthcare’s Loughshinny Nursing Home four weeks ago to help protect the residents against Covid-19. Photograph: Crispin Rodwell/The Irish Times

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A mother and two daughters moved into a Dublin nursing home for more than six weeks at the height of the Covid pandemic to look after residents.

Healthcare assistants Claire Guinan and her two daughters, mother-of-one Lauren and Megan, work at Loughshinny Residential Home, a 123-bed complex opened last year in Skerries in north Dublin.

Lauren left a three-year-old daughter at home, who she saw only on video calls during her six-week stay.

Saying they had decided to stay for the safety of the home’s residents and their own families, Claire Guinan said: “It was really strange not going home. My husband was at home. Lauren’s partner was at home. They were out of work, too. Six weeks is a long time for a young child to be away from her mammy.”

The trio’s stay had to be extended after Lauren was diagnosed with Covid-19 in mid-April after Defence Forces medics tested Loughshinny residents and staff. “We were hoping at that point to go home if we got a negative result. But I got a positive result. I was asymptomatic. I had no symptoms. I was completely unaware that I had contracted Covid. I could not believe it.”

Staff diagnosed as positive were immediately moved “away from residents and other personnel”.

Having lost her sense of taste and smell, but without a high temperature, she began 14 days of isolation in the home. “I was upstairs. They used to come around, stand on chairs and talk to me through the window. My partner came down and parked his car around the back and talked to me through the window.”

The days passed slowly, helped by Netflix and books.

Looking back, the three say the time was “tough”, especially when they saw residents to whom they were close struggling.

“It was so difficult to see families standing at the windows, looking at their loved ones through a window. We could not open the windows,” said Lauren

Like other nursing homes, visits ended in early March so many residents were lonely. Staff did not want them to be, so they “were constantly gearing up in PPE and going in”.

On occasions, some of the most frail did not recognise PPE-equipped staff, who on occasion wept as they left their rooms.

Each of the residents who died were remembered. “We would remember how they did this or that. It would help you a little bit,” said Claire.

Saying that he was “immensely proud” of his team, Bartra Healthcare CEO Declan Carlyle said they had put themselves and their families second to the wellbeing of residents. Describing their actions as being above and beyond the call of duty did not do them justice, he added. Referring to a dispute with the Health Service Executive over the number of Covid-19-related confirmed and probable deaths at the nursing home, he said he very much regretted the hurt and mistrust that has been brought about by the confusion involved. The HSE has criticised The Irish Times for publishing those figures which it said represented a snapshot in time that was constantly being superseded as more accurate data becomes available.

Mr Carlyle said Bartra had spared no cost in its fight against the virus but, despite its efforts and similar to many other high quality care centres, the virus managed to enter. Those involved in deflecting responsibility simply caused further distress and hurt for all involved. “We patiently await the review and the learnings that will arise.” He said their efforts would continue and, in time, they would gather with the community to remember “those loved ones lost to this awful virus”.

Saying that some of her friends thought she was “crazy” for moving into the nursing home at the height of the crisis, Megan Guinan said she has no regrets.

“It is an important job. Someone needed to be there. The residents needed people to be here and that is what we did. We were here.”