St Joseph’s Home: Face Masks are a Challenge
For homes caring for children, Covid-19 regulations have created not only logistic and financial but also interpersonal challenges.
That has been the experience of St Joseph’s Home for chronically ill children in Cape Town.
Facial expressions, such as smiling, are an important part of all communications and interactions, but now, living behind facemasks, these emotional cues are obscured.
“It is absolutely essential for a child to be able to connect with you, and that includes a lot of facial expression,” said Christelle Cornelius, St Joseph’s CEO.
“Initially our therapists wore visors instead of masks. Since masks have become compulsory we are guided by our values. How do we engage with one another?” she said.
“We cannot see so much of the facial expression, but what is important is that we still engage in a respectful manner. We respect each other by wearing masks.”
Covid-19 safety regulations have also deprived the children at the home of contact with their parents.
St Joseph’s is maintaining regular contact with parents, which reassures them “that we are giving their children loving care”, Ms Cornelius said.
“Nurses and staff can only do so much in terms of daily care, and you cannot replace the bond between a parent and a child. So we recognise that this is difficult and have now started to reintegrate parents back into the home to visit their children,” Ms Cornelius said.
Limited parental visits were introduced, with many precautions in place. Some parents had to be turned away at the entrance because they did not meet screening criteria, which Ms Cornelius said was very sad.
“All our children who are at St Joseph’s are medically fragile and are admitted for 24-hour nursing care. The highest proportion of diagnoses is infectious disease. They are therefore medically more vulnerable to complications should they contract the virus,” she explained.
“It is very important to take all the precautions to keep them safe and not worsen their fragility.”
To that end, the home’s more than 130 staff members are screened daily, with uniforms disinfected and changed on site, Ms Cornelius said.
Personal Protective Equipment and the implementation of other safety protocols, such as disinfectants, has added “a huge unbudgeted cost” to the home’s operations.
To meet the shortfall, St Joseph’s is running a fundraising campaign called the “I Care Bag”. A donation of R200 finances one bag containing ten surgical masks, two pairs of gloves and two aprons.
The home hopes to raise R400 000 through the campaign. Click here for more information or to contribute.
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