A 'VISITOR pod' has been set up in the garden of a Kidderminster care home to allow families to see their elderly relatives for the first time since the coronavirus lockdown.

The ban on care home visitors was lifted last month, but with the government advising that visits now take place outdoors, staff at The Gables in Broomfield Road were faced with a conundrum as the home's garden is regularly used by residents with dementia.

Kidderminster Shuttle: Inside the new visitor pod at The Gables care home in KidderminsterInside the new visitor pod at The Gables care home in Kidderminster

The Gables manager Kim Northwood said: "When you have dementia residents wandering without purpose, it is difficult to segregate any area of the home off for safe visits.

"We did think of using the residents’ individual rooms at first, but that would create issues in itself as residents could leave the families in the room and wander off. Also everything within that room would then need a thorough deep clean after each visit to limit cross infection which would be a massive undertaking throughout the day for the care staff to complete.”

To allow family visits to safely go ahead, The Gables has invested in a portable visitor pod from company Taylex, which has been set up in the home's garden.

The pods come with wipeable walls, meaning staff can easily clean down the pods between visits.

Kidderminster Shuttle: The portable visitor centre has been set up in the care home's gardenThe portable visitor centre has been set up in the care home's garden

Kim said: "Having the visitors centre has meant that we can thoroughly clean between visits much easier - and it's much more cost effective.

"It means that all our residents are safe and families can come and see their residents knowing that it is a safe environment.

“Since having the visitors pod we can already see the impact this is having on our residents and the families who have been desperate to come and see their family member.

"We have throughout the pandemic kept in touch via Zoom, Microsoft Teams, WhatsApp and a Facebook portal, but they are no substitute for face to face meeting with their family member albeit through a screen.

“We have made it comfortable and homely and it now looks like two lounges. In the family side we have a drinks station for them.”

The care home has set up a booking system for visitors, with three one-hour slots a day and an hour set aside in between visits for cleaning.

The Gables is allowing one family member at each visit and plans to reassess the situation and possibly increase to two family members after four weeks.

Kidderminster Shuttle: Inside one of the Taylex visitor podsInside one of the Taylex visitor pods

Kim said: “Residents’ families have been so supportive throughout the pandemic and we have remained Covid free and want to remain that way."

The visitor centre has made a huge difference to Sandra Newell, whose mum lives at the home.

She said: “The Gables have done amazing job keeping the home Covid-free and keeping me updated about my mum, but it’s not like seeing her for myself.

"Having this opportunity now means the world for me to see her face to face after four months of not seeing her.

"I’m happy that visitors will not be going into the home. It’s a wonderful facility, I can’t thank them enough.”