Care home manager was “overwhelmed with help” after coronavirus took hold

15th May

The manager of a Horam care home says she has been overwhelmed by support from the public when COVID 19 struck.

In an exclusive interview with The Heathfield News, Cynthia Viloria spoke of the huge sense of loss following the death of seven residents of Millcroft Care Home in Vines Cross Road. Three members of staff also caught the virus but have now recovered.

Since the tragedies, staff have started raising money for a memorial garden at the home which was designed by one of the residents before he died. So far more than £700 has been raised. You can donate here.

Cynthia explained: “It has been really difficult for everyone. Everything happened within two weeks – the situation was unreal and very sad because all of the staff were really close to the residents who died.

“One of the residents didn’t want to go to hospital and begged to stay at Millcroft. We ensured that we granted that wish and made him as comfortable as we could.”

The family of the resident expressed their gratitude and appreciation saying: “We are so grateful for all the support and care to make my Mum’s final days as comfortable as possible. You are all our heroes.”

“We had to make some very tough decision in those 14 days. I have worked at Millcroft for 16 years and many of the residents have been here for more than five years. They are like my family,” Cynthia added.

When Covid entered the home, a decision was taken to completely lock down the premises for 14 days with four staff agreeing to stay at Millcroft for the duration. The four-strong team had to do the exhausting work of 14 people which meant cooking, cleaning, and caring for all the residents. However, there was little PPE available and the supplies of food were short too. At one-point staff had to protect themselves with bin bags as the care home supply was completely different to what hospitals are using.

In desperation, Cynthia started calling anyone she thought could help and struck gold when she spoke to local celebrity Jayne Torvill who helped the home from day one of the outbreak. Jayne recorded a video appeal for PPE on her Instagram account which was viewed more than 4,000 times.

The relatives of other residents also helped to raise an awareness with the local authority and local MP. Cynthia was thankful for the support the home received from the community.

“Dr Jacques of Heathfield Surgery supported us from day one. She came in to check on us regularly during those difficult times.

Other local people answered the call for help and quickly started sewing PPE for the Millcroft team. In a Facebook appeal Cynthia asked for everyone to bring basic food supplies to the home ‘bread, milk and any other basics. I can’t buy more than three items at the moment which is leaving my 20 residents at risk – and I can’t get a delivery slot either. Anything will be highly appreciated’.

“As the manager I knew I just needed to help my 20 residents and protect my staff. I was crying a lot. It was very hard. I was feeling very alone in the situation but knowing that there were people willing to step in to support us made a huge difference. The community really helped us.

“I am really proud of my team. We really pulled together and had to deal with a lot of mental stress and upset,” Cynthia said.

One resident was just eight days away from celebrating her 100th birthday when she died from Covid 19 which the team found particularly sad as they had organised a party and bought cards.

Cynthia added: “The residents and staff at Millcroft are one big family. We are run with love and now we are absolutely devastated. Each of the lovely people who died have their own stories. They moved into Millcroft as they needed a bit of support. We loved each person as an individual and we feel they deserve to be honoured and remembered.

“All of our residents loved our garden and we are fundraising to set up a memorial that they deserve. It will be a place where family, friends and staff can go to think about our lost loved ones.”

During the 14-day lockdown Facetime and WhatsApp was used to help residents keep in touch with their families and now visits can take place outside in the garden as long as people stay two metres apart.

Since April 24th Millcroft has been clear of Covid 19.