“It seems like ages ago since we took the decision to implement our contingency plan and, like many others, I also fear that we are far away from the end.
“However, it is in my nature to be optimistic, so with each passing day and week, I always say we are one day or one week closer to being in a better position than we are today.
“It is natural to doubt what our life would be after all this and there is a big probability that the ‘normal’ of before will not be the ‘normal’ of the after. In these tough times we all found new routines, new ways of working and communicating. So, not all is doom. In a split of a second we all became more flexible, more accommodating and, most importantly, more compassionate towards each other.
“And it is the latter I am most proud of because at CareMalta we pride ourselves in being compassionate. It is also why we took this step to voluntarily ask our employees to live in with our residents, in order to safeguard them from this life-threatening virus. It was not an easy decision but it was the right thing to do and I was certain that our employees would respond to our call because compassion is at the heart of all that they do.
“I am not part of the live-in but the Central Support Team, which is an amazing team working on the outside to ensure our staff and residents are well taken care of. The toughest part of my duty were the three days prior to the first phase of our plan, due to logistical and planning issues. These were the busiest and shortest 72 hours of my life. The amount of work and coordination required is unthinkable but thanks to our Group, we made it. We came together, all of us from different sections, like never before and we made miracles in three days.
“I liaise continuously with our management team in the facilities to make sure all is going well. Those calls have become the most important calls of the day, as they allow me to remotely connect with our people and be there for them more than ever before. I must say that even though I do feel their tiredness at times, I also feel their determination to persevere through this together and I am more than proud of our team.
“On the other hand, together with our CEO and the rest of the Senior Management Team, we are continuously planning the next steps, with the ultimate aim of keeping our residents as safe as possible, while keeping myself quarantined in case I need to enter one of our homes to lend a helping hand.
“A big thank you goes to:
- all the sections of the Vassallo Group for backing us all along;
- all our management team who, without any hesitation, took the initiative to participate, also switching to different roles when required;
- the Central Support Team who are working day and night on the outside;
- our CEO for believing and supporting this mission from the very first hour, a golden-hearted woman who gives her all to the residents;
- our head office employees who ensure that administratively we continue to operate as normal, even in a scenario where normality no longer exists;
- all our employees, those who made the live-in and also those who for some reason or another couldn’t participate;
- the authorities for backing our decisions;
- the relatives for understanding that this is in the best interest of their beloved ones and for supporting us; and
- most importantly our residents, who cooperated from day one and keep doing so, teaching us life lessons along the way and putting smiles on our faces every day.
“All of the above translates perfectly into I Care, our motto, our way of life. My hope and vision are that we will continue to do our very best for all our residents, and I am positive we will come out of this stronger together.”
“It was a sudden decision I had to take and communicate to my colleagues, inviting them to volunteer for a live-in with our residents to keep them safe.
“I hardly had time to think about anything. The only thing that came to my mind was logistics… beds, dormitories, food provision, our residents, relatives, hospital appointments, medicine, hygiene, safety, risks, etc.
“It seemed that my body and stamina both responded very well to this situation and I felt full of energy, ready to prepare for almost everything. I must admit that I was blessed with a remarkable team who came on board immediately and supported the initiative. We worked well together and although there were a few teething problems, together we found a way of making things happen rather than escalating the problems.
“Furthermore, we were backed by CareMalta’s head office, who were supporting us day and night, and by CaterEssence, which provided us all food and other delightful treats.
“It was not easy to shift all the rosters to the new workforce. But with the good will of all the staff, who were extremely supportive and determined to offer their very best, we managed to keep offering a sterling service to our residents.
“I witnessed first hand the philosophy behind I Care – that of putting the values of care, compassion and love into practice. The kitchen staff managed to provide healthy food not only to the 200 residents but also to the 73 volunteers, each with their preferences according to nationality.
“Staff from the housekeeping department were continuously on the go, cleaning public areas, residents’ rooms, employees’ dormitories, as well as washing both the residents’ and employees’ clothes.
“The maintenance team had a lot on their plate, since there were alterations to see to, in order to be able to accommodate and change rooms into dormitories and isolation areas for safety. They also kept responding to all calls from residents with big dedication.
“Staff members from the front office and security departments did a great job. Their day started from early morning and continued till very late. Most of the time, they were busy connecting residents with their relatives, patiently showing them how to connect. It was very emotional at times to watch residents touching the computers during conversations with their loved ones; they almost wanted to touch them through the screens.
“Hats off to the caring staff and active ageing team who, from day one continued with their work to ensure our residents’ well-being. Their dedication to wash, feed, distribute medicines and keep them lively was impressive. All this can be expressed in a resident’s comment: ‘You are my family now!’
“Despite the social distance between our residents and their relatives, we managed to keep them as close as possible and offer them a warm, loving and safe environment. Many people also supported us through social media acknowledgements, others with treats, but we must not forget the support from the Sacro Cuor parish community, who brought the Blessed Eucharist every Sunday.
“Reflecting on all this, I am proud, together with my team, to have responded with care and compassion with such an open heart. If possible, I would like to embrace them all to show my admiration and appreciation for all their professional efforts.
“We must now look forward to continuing with more weeks with our elderly to ensure their safety. Together we managed to do the impossible in these first three weeks.”
“My Covid-19 journey so far… at times I feel other people’s frustration, desperation, fear and exhaustion. Everyone wants to be heard, people judge, people ask how we are going to overcome this, but yet hope shines brightly most of the time.
“Over the past four weeks I have been working around the clock – mostly from home. It has not been easy, especially trying to explain this situation to my seven-year-old son, who he himself has to adjust to new realities. Yes, it has been tiring. Sometimes, I feel overwhelmed, yet I calm myself through silence and, more than ever, I realise that the importance of being true to myself is vital to keep positive and go forward in life with a great and strong purpose.
“I let go in the hands of who I believe will lead my way. My smile suddenly comes back and find inner peace. Crisis situations bring out people’s true colours. Yet, we need to accept that some people come into our life as blessings while others as lessons.
“I believe that Covid-19 came into our lives exactly when it was meant to, even though it is hard to understand the point of it all, especially when so many people are experiencing pain and struggles. Yet, we must believe that although such experiences test us and confuse us, they also help us be better people.
“I conclude by sharing with you that I believe there are two kinds of love – a love of ourselves and a love of others. To live is to choose between these two loves. I choose the latter.”
“I, together with the rest of the world, am living through this pandemic. My daily routine in life has changed dramatically. Work has become more intense and at times scary because of this current situation. For the past month, we have been fully dedicated to keeping our beloved vulnerable ones in the safest environment possible.
“Although Mellieha Home operates only the services, we are still a big part of it because we need to prepare food, see to the upkeep of the rooms, cleanliness and, most of all, the comfort to our residents, especially now that their relatives cannot come to see them. Working together with the nursing sector has made us more united for the same aim – our residents.
“My life has changed too. Just a week after I was appointed to assist our company senior services manager, I had to take over Mellieha Home once again to help out in this operation. Stress and tension levels are higher than usual but, thanks to one great team, our daily challenges subside in a positive way. We got to know each other better and the element of teamwork is shown both during service time as well as outside normal hours.
“I can observe that our employees are practising the company’s I Care motto most tangibly and I’m proud to say that this is reflected both in the way they care for the residents as well as from feedback by residents. I feel a sense of satisfaction when residents and their relatives appreciate the work and dedication shown.
“Just a simple thank you can make you and the rest of the team happy. This is my main objective in the circumstances – to keep motivated and not to give up.
“More than my job, I can say that this is a life experience and a learning curve to appreciate even more what we have in life.”
“I have been bursting with emotions over the past six weeks, as this journey has taken me on a Ferris wheel ride which will be hard to stop. As I reflect on the preceding days leading to March 16, I had my gym bag packed in my car, thinking that the voluntary live-in with the elderly at Roseville would only last a few days… How wrong I was!
“The Ferris wheel suddenly turned into a rollercoaster ride that has made me dig deeper into things at a rather fast pace. Being here on a 24-hour basis has really opened my eyes in terms of the nature of my work. This is an experience that has exposed me to different facets of my role within Roseville.
“While I am the manager here, this experience is lending me the opportunity to appreciate more the various roles of my staff and the challenges they face. It is also an opportunity that calls for an internal evaluation of all the home’s operations and processes. When I ask myself or other colleagues, ‘But why do we do a particular task in such a way?’, the no. 1 answer is, ‘Because we’ve always done it that way.’ Now I feel I’m in a better position to understand why we operate the way we do.
“This experience is a learning opportunity. When things are back to normal, we can always go over the way we operate certain things and maybe reflect in order to tweak them to improve the service we offer to our residents and their families.
“When I look at the residents, I see happy faces. I see that they are living this experience positively, even though it’s a difficult time. There were times, over these past six weeks, that we, together with the residents, didn’t even realise it was the weekend. But then, as we always do, we try to make Saturday and Sunday a little more special by organising special activities.
“During the past week, on two separate occasions, residents and staff had the opportunity to enjoy live music by a violinist (the daughter of a staff member) and also by a band, through our terraces and façade windows. Skype calls between residents and their families also leave a very positive impact. I feel privileged to experience and facilitate such intimate moments between the residents and their loved ones.
“It is our way of compensating for the difficulties encountered during these pandemic times with significant moments – not the usual activities but spending quality time with our residents, such as sitting together to watch a movie, dancing together in the lobby or just enjoying a cup of tea in our gardens or on the terraces.
“What really strikes me is the fact that our residents feel safe with us being here. They feel nothing bad will happen to them because we are with them. There’s a strong element of trust.
“When we moved into the homes, the residents couldn’t believe we were all sleeping here. In fact, I had to physically show them where we are sleeping. From that day on, they came knocking at my door, some even offering to give me their private recliner so I could rest better. Others asked me if I wanted to go sleep in their room or if I was alright or needed anything. A few others offered to make me a cup of tea. This element of generosity was lovely. The residents accepted us as part of their community. Very often, while calling their relatives, they ask them to bring over a cake, or a box of chocolates, or a bouquet of flowers. It’s their way of saying thank you.
“Other strong experiences were instances when we had to send a resident to hospital and couldn’t accompany them. I felt as though I was releasing the most precious thing we had and trusting them with someone we didn’t know. Even though this is our job and we take decisions in the residents’ best interest, this has been very emotional for our staff.
“My biggest and most precious resource is the staff at Roseville. Supporting them is crucial, as they too feel anxious at times. Sleeping and waking up with colleagues 24 hours a day has left an impact on everyone. In a way, this experience has been an unexpected team-building activity that has brought everyone together, amid the different cultures, ages, gender upbringing and life experiences.
“Everyone has taken up informal roles, such as washing clothes, providing ‘hairdressing services’ and entertainment as well as cooking their favourite dishes. It has been a varied international culinary experience for all.
“Birthday celebrations were a highlight. The fact that the residents are getting exposure on social media gives them a bigger sense of looking forward to celebrating such special occasions. We always try to compensate for the absence of their loved ones in the best way we can by filling this void.
“The many appreciative and encouraging messages from the residents and their families are what keep us going. Everywhere you look, especially during this time, there’s a strong human element.
“There’s also a great sense of empathy between us, the residents and their relatives because they can understand that we are also missing our families. It’s a circle.
“We are literally living in their shoes.”