The daughter of a care home resident has spoken of her massive relief after her mother became one of the first in Wales to receive the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine to protect her against deadly Coronavirus.
Gwenda Jones, who will be 80 in March, was among 100 residents given the jab arm at the award-winning Bryn Seiont Newydd dementia care facility in Caernarfon.
Daughter Susan Griffith, who is a care worker herself, said it is a massive weight lifted from her shoulders to know that her mum has now had her first dose of vaccine.
She said: “We all know these are extremely challenging times and there is still a difficult road ahead for so many of us, but at least now there is some clear light at the end of what has been a very dark and long tunnel.
“We have so missed being able to freely visit mum, hug and get close to her like we used to do before the pandemic. Hopefully, it will now not be long before those days will return.”
Susan, who lives in Caernarfon, said the whole family had been impacted by the emotional effects of not being able to see Gwenda.
But it has especially hit Susan’s father, Twm – Thomas Wyn Jones – who pre-pandemic would walk down to Bryn Seiont Newydd every day from the Caernarfon home he once shared with his wife of more than 60 years.
Susan said: “He would not miss a day. But COVID-19 has taken an emotional toll on them both. For their own safety, being in the high-risk elderly group dad has not been able to enter the home to see mum like he used to, plus he has had to actively shield himself.”
The retired quarry worker has also suffered physically as a result of not getting the daily exercise which the walk to Bryn Seiont Newydd provided.
Susan’s electrician husband Paul and their two sons Ben, 21, and Gethin, 27, have also missed contact with their gran.
Despite the difficulties Susan and the family are hugely grateful for the care Gwenda and the other residents have received at Bryn Seiont Newydd where Gwenda has lived for the past five years.
Susan said: “She settled in well at Bryn Seiont Newydd and all the staff have been brilliant.
“We were hugely impressed before the pandemic lockdown which came into force the day before mum’s birthday last year. But the whole team has really excelled through this terrible crisis, keeping all the residents safe and shielded as they need to be.
“They have looked after them as if they were their own families. We cannot praise their efforts enough. Now we all hope this vaccine will get to work and give mam and all the residents vital extra protection.”
Bryn Seiont Newydd is among the first residential homes in Wales given access to the hailed Oxford Astrazeneca vaccine which it is hoped will offer a vital turning point in the fight against the lethal Coronavirus.
Care homes and the elderly are at the highest risk of serious illness from COVID-19 andare a number one priority for receiving the vaccine.
According to Bryn Seiont manager Sandra Evans, most of the 200-plus staff had already been innoculated but with the Pfizer Bio N-Tech vaccine preliminary dose.
Sandra said: “COVID-19 has created an exceptionally difficult year for everyone in the care sector. These are truly unprecedented times in which we have had to adapt and think on our feet like never before, but I am so proud that our team here has really stepped up to the plate.
“Their dedication and determination to put the welfare of our residents first has been remarkable. It is down to them that we have managed to keep all our residents virus-free since the start of the pandemic.”
To help overcome potential feelings of isolation caused by the pandemic and lack of family visits the staff have drawn increasingly on Bryn Seiont Newydd’s extensive and varied programme of recreational activities for residents including daily interactive arts, music and crafts sessions.
Sandra added: “We are in truly uncharted waters and are having to monitor the situation constantly and adapt our approach according to the latest data. But the vaccines do bring us real promise for better times ahead.”
Pendine Park proprietor Mario Kreft said the staff had faced up courageously to the most challenging year in their history.
He said: “Our strength lies in our excellent staff and highly developed staff training programmes. Our entire team has excelled in this most difficult and frightening of times. They have stuck by our residents unflinchingly and helped us an organisation negotiate the ever twisting and turning pathway through this pandemic.
“Bryn Seiont is one of the biggest care homes in North Wales. For a home of that size with 200 staff, keeping it Covid-free for 10 months has been a remarkable achievement. Sandra and her team have been quite magnificent, and they are a credit to the profession of social care. The only thing that has mattered to them is their residents.
“What they have achieved at Bryn Seiont has also disproved the misinformed assertion that large homes are somehow more susceptible. Of course, there are more staff but because of the design of Bryn Seiont we have always been ready to compartmentalise and segregate different areas within the home.
“There is still a long way to go but this week’s roll out of the vaccines at Bryn Seiont is a positive step which we hope will lay the groundwork for better times ahead.”
Mary Wimbury, Chief Executive of Care Forum Wales, which represents nearly 500 independent social care providers, welcomed the roll-out of the vaccination to the sector.
She said: “Our care home residents and the people who look after them are right in the firing line especially with a new, rampant form of the virus on the loose.
“We’re in a race against time and it’s vital we protect these most vulnerable people and I welcome the fact that this vaccine roll-out is happening quickly because we are facing a health catastrophe.
“The pressure is on and many care homes throughout Wales are at crisis point so now we have the vaccine it is critical that we get it out to those who need it most.”