IT has been a devastating time for care homes in Warrington, as the coronavirus cruelly claimed at least 96 lives.

We have clapped for our carers each week to thank them for their hard work and dedication in protecting the town’s most vulnerable residents and while we remember those who have died, it is important to recognise the stories of hope emerging from the pandemic.

One care home in Stockton Heath has avoided Covid-19 completely amongst staff and residents.

READ > No coronavirus patients in intensive care at Warrington Hospital

Through effective planning, management and luck the team at Arlington House reduced the risk of infection early on and have continued to implement further measures.

Warrington Guardian:

The care home was locked down to visitors 10 days before the Government advised their own lockdown and this proved a crucial step.

Before the situation took a turn for the worse, the team secured large supplies of PPE equipment in February, so that they were prepared for the critical months ahead.

An enhanced cleaning and maintenance programme was implemented to ensure all areas are clean and sterile.

Owners Neeruj and Gita Luthra said: “We can’t lie, it’s been a stressful few months and we’ve just sent a memo to all our staff members reminding them that we are not out of the woods just yet.

“Our staff, residents and family members have been amazing, and everyone has pulled together to help fight Covid-19.

“We would also like to thank Warrington Borough Council for their on-going support and guidance – they have been a trusted and vital partner to us.”

Warrington Guardian:

To keep everyone’s spirits up during a very testing few months, staff have been provided with regular treats such as fresh gateaux, sweet boxes and bespoke cupcakes – which they enjoyed with their families.

The care home has always had a busy activities schedule but with no visitors and more downtime than ever before, staff knew they needed to raise the bar in terms of creativity and engagement.

Arlington Walking Club was introduced which has proven a popular activity, where a group of around 12 residents stroll around the large gardens.

An in-house ice-cream cart is brought to residents at their chairs and they can enjoy their favourite flavours in cones.

Residents have also been writing messages to their families on white boards which are then shown on Facebook or emailed directly to their loved ones.

One family member bought the care home a greenhouse so residents can grow their own fruit and vegetables.

Since March, the home has sent a weekly email bulletin to all family members with key updates around testing, PPE, government policy and activities.

Regular welfare calls to family members were also introduced, so they get a personal update about their loved one.

To help the easing of the visitor lockdown, a large double-glazed screen has been fitted on the outdoor decking area to facilitate visits.

The screen ensures that visits can take place with family members and residents being in proximity, but with no chance of any droplets and subsequent infection being passed over.

The home hopes to start outdoor visits from around the middle of July.

A chaperone will also be employed on visiting days to ensure all visitors adhere to strict infection control measures.

Warrington Guardian:

Ritu Masih, home Manager, said: “Even though the current government guidance is to avoid non-essential visits in care homes, we think it’s important to look for safe solutions to allow people to see their loved ones again.

“Some might feel the glass screen is overly cautious, but after seeing how badly hit many homes have been, we don’t want to take any chances.

“It is safety-first at all times”.

John Monks, whose mum is a resident at Arlington House, said: “Not seeing mum since lockdown is hard.

“The staff send me regular video clips of her dancing, exercising and making cakes.

“These, along with her smile on the Skype calls give me the comfort that Arlington is the loving home that allows mum to be safe and happy.

“Putting my mum in a home was a hard but necessary decision. One year on I know for sure it was the right decision.

"Mum is happy, safe and loved 24/7 by the wonderful owners, management and staff."

Pat and Mick Gater who also have a family member in Arlington, added: “The staff have been fantastic; nothing has been too much trouble for them, and they always come to the front door in a happy mood.

“They have shown complete dedication to their job. You can be rightly proud of them, but you can also be proud of yourselves and your commitment and leadership.”