Covid, its impact on residents of care homes and their families
Going into a care home
The impact of lockdown
The impact of lockdown
Since lockdown began, visits from family have been limited to conversations through windows, and residents have, until recently, been confined to their rooms and unable to mix with other residents. Had Mum still been alive she would have been extremely distressed at not being able to see the people that meant the most to her, or spend time with her friends in the home. She would also have struggled to understand things like Skype or Face Time calls on an iPad or tablet. Volunteers like myself, beauty therapists, entertainers, art therapists etc. have all been excluded during this period, creating a vacuum which is having to be filled by already over burdened staff who are trying to maintain high standards of hygiene and personal care for residents. I am particularly sad that the Trishaw outings that the residents loved and got them out in the fresh air and provided stimulation haven't been possible. These outings were so beneficial to both mental and physical health. I recently met a friend whose mother was in the same care home and had sadly passed away with Covid. The experience was so distressing for her, watching her mother deteriorating through a bedroom window and not being able to sit with her until the last few days of her life. She had nothing but praise for the care home staff and the compassionate way they looked after her mother, but she now suffers from flashbacks and feelings of guilt. Had I been in a similar situation and unable to visit Mum I would have been frantic with worry that she would be feeling abandoned by those she loved most, as happened in her early childhood. All through this period I have felt so thankful that my mum passed away last year, as she wouldn't have understood why we weren't visiting. Physical contact was also an important part of our visits. She loved to have her hands and feet massaged, nail polish applied, hair styled by my daughter and she also took great comfort from a hug. Without this regular contact and reassurance of our love, my fear would have been that it might have triggered feelings of abandonment and loss.
"A better way has to be found to manage these issues, and to recognise that family members are so much more than 'visitors', and must be recognised as partners in care for all those living in residential care settings".
What could be done better
What could be done better?
While I consider it important that the spread of the virus has to be prevented, the impact of the measures to date has undoubtedly had a detrimental effect on both residents and their loved ones. A better way has to be found to manage these issues and to recognise that family members are so much more than just 'visitors' and must be recognised as 'partners in care' for all those living in residential care settings. On our initial visit to Mum's care home I vividly remember the manager saying "this is not my care home, it's the home of the residents who live here. I manage the home and my staff are here to provide the best possible experience for your loved one." In my opinion this philosophy should underpin all future considerations regarding the type of infection control and prevention relating to residential care, taking account of the importance of meaningful activity and human contact through any future outbreaks.