Support worker Sue Hulbert talks about the changes and challenges of her role since lockdown.

Since lockdown Alzheimer's Support support workers have had to adjust considerably to the changes in their roles.

From the first few weeks when just a few visits were made to those who needed them most, to going back into people’s home and communicating while wearing personal protective equipment, the challenges have been new and unique.

For support worker Sue Hulbert, the announcement of lockdown left her feeling ‘numb’. 

She said: “It happened so quickly. Some of the people I support didn’t understand why we couldn’t meet or why I couldn’t take them out. Not being able to see people or know how long it would last was hard too. I was also very nervous at first, my husband works in care homes, my mother is 88 and lives with us. I felt I was being pulled every which way as I didn’t want to put anyone at risk.”

While being equipped with PPE was reassuring, it also came with its own challenges.

Sue said: “Seeing the equipment made me realise just how serious things were. When I first put the mask on it was too hot and I went into panic mode. I felt I couldn’t breathe, almost as if I was having an asthma attack.

"I’m used to it now and it means I can keep visiting my clients and keep them and myself safe. I feel very professional in it.”

'I use my eyes more'

For reassurance and security, when Sue arrives for a visit she will knock on the clients’ door and then stand two metres away.  When the clients open the door they see her without any mask so they know it’s her.  She will then put the mask on and the rest of the equipment, ensuring the clients can see her the whole time, and wears it throughout the visit.

She says: “I try to use my eyes a lot more when I’m wearing the mask – I really crinkle them up when I smile – and I use my hands a lot more to gesture.” 

How the visits are spent very much depends on the person. In the first few weeks Sue could only see people in their own homes, or work in their gardens for them while they watched from inside. Some have preferred to stay at home since lockdown eased, while others have wanted to go a little further afield.

Staying safe as 'people's worlds shrink'

If they do go out, Sue cleans her car thoroughly before every visit, wears PPE and the person she is supporting sits in the back seat to ensure a safe distance is maintained. To further ensure safety, she and her clients visit country parks and other outdoor locations.

Sue said: “I got a coffee for a client on our way to Westbury White Horse. I went into the shop and got it, while they stayed in the car, keeping them in sight the whole time. They complained they couldn’t go into the shop, but I had to make sure they stayed safe.”

The visits have certainly made a difference to the people Sue visits at a time when everyone’s worlds have shrunk.

“A husband of one my clients said his wife didn’t remember the visits themselves but remembered my name and the days on which we meet. I’m pleased to have made an impression.”