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Guardian Angel Carers: our COVID-19 story, one year on

Guardian Angel Carers: our COVID-19 story, one year on

Founder Christina Handasyde Dick reflects on a year like no other

One year on from lockdown is a sobering moment, but also a time to reflect on the way that we rallied together under the most intense of pressures. The core values of Guardian Angel Carers held us in good stead. We feel stronger and more relevant than ever.

This time a year ago, my husband and I felt so fearful for the lives that would be lost, the families that would be torn apart, and the NHS workers pushed to their limits. We talked about PTSD and the huge mental health challenges to come. We could see the storm coming – and like the sailing folk that we are, we battened down the hatches, but also readied ourselves to let the wind fill our sails.

Coming to terms with degrees of separation
One of our first tasks was to run a ‘degrees of separation’ test for everyone in the company. The following week we mobilised ‘cell working’ – what we would soon know as ‘bubbles’. As ‘carers’, nothing could be further from our immediate instincts than adding to, rather than reducing our degrees of separation.

But we knuckled down. In March alone we launched a recruitment campaign for an ‘army of Angel Reserves’, developed and delivered a new training programme for rapid onboarding of our new Angels, quadrupled our new recruits.

We risk-assessed over 200 clients, operationalised home working, distributed vitamin D tablets and frantically sourced PPE.

In April we helped free up as many local hospital beds as we could, and continued to source PPE at extraordinary rates. Amazingly our team were never without PPE.

Staying grounded
To find that our business was ‘expanding’, while all around us friends, neighbours, relatives worried about their jobs, kept us grounded. But we also saw how franchising a proven care model could be one of the good things to come out of the crisis, offering opportunities for good, motivated people. So we bought out our investor and recruited Daniel Ayton – an experienced business development manager who is now our head of operations.

Our expenditure on PPE went from £4,000 to £56,000 in under six months, even allowing for the visors kindly donated by AMufacture and Medics Money. Ironically, I’d started the year looking at how green we could go, researching compostable PPE and electric cars – a project I hope to revisit this year.

Camaraderie and commitment
So much has been achieved in these 12 months, but for me, the greatest satisfaction of all was how our team came together; how the camaraderie and commitment for our shared goal: to keep our clients and our colleagues safe, shone through. I really could not be more proud, nor feel more fortunate to work with such a passionate, committed team and franchisees, who rose to this incredible challenge.

We are intensely aware that the past 12 months has been a radically different journey for so many. Some – freed from long commutes and/or on furlough – have experienced quality family time. For many, loneliness and stress have been ever-present. Some have started family life without the usual support of family and friends. Many have had to juggle work and home-schooling. The journey has been so different for us all and it makes me wonder how we will all relate to each other as we emerge from the crisis. How will we reconnect and find community amongst friends? Will social distancing and our vastly different experiences of the pandemic make us more or less sensitive? Will we be more or less tolerant? More or less understanding of each other?

Our hopes, challenges and vision
There’s no doubt that mental health challenges are rife. Andrew, a GP, is seeing the fallout every day, and our challenge is to be more mindful than ever when it comes to each other, the people we care for, their families, our people, our franchisees, our business associates.

We did at least manage to start 2021 with an epic ‘virtual party’ for New Year’s Eve. Thanks to DJ Covell and Cooseman, and some awesome people, we raised over £4,000 for Stonepillow and lifted many spirits.

My own hope is that the lessons of this ‘unprecedented year’ will prove how we worked best when we worked together.

It’s certainly made me more passionate than ever about what Simon Sinek calls a Just Cause. My Just Cause is to positively evolve care at home and to support quality of life for longer.

And it’s why I’m so committed to expanding our Home Care to more people across the UK. During this year like no other, we took action to launch our franchise family to do just that. It’s been a privilege to welcome to meet so many people who share our vision for a better, more caring future.

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