Care homes have been at the sharp end of the COVID-19 pandemic. While the pressures have been well reported, the great innovation displayed by many providers should also be recognised.
As far back as April, the Office of National Statistics reported 83% more deaths from dementia,1 as a result of the negative impact of isolation and the onset of depression in those who have been forced to shield from their loved ones.
“Visits are a lifeline to our residents. When that was taken away the psychological impact was really hard,” confirms Kay Cox, Chief Operating Officer at Signature Senior Lifestyle, who provide assisted living, nursing and dementia care. “Interaction and activities form the basis of physical and mental wellbeing in our homes, so the challenge has been how we can continue to do these in safe ways.”
Availability of rapid response tests
Like the rest of the world, the care home operator has turned to technology by using software such as Microsoft Teams, Facebook Portal and Zoom to help keep families connected. While well received, this is no substitute for face-to-face contact.
The Government announced on the 1st December that lateral flow COVID-19 tests would be sent to 15,000 care homes before Christmas. Signature are already offering rapid 15-minute COVID-19 antigen tests for family and friends visiting all of their homes.
Kay confirms: “We sourced our own tests before the Government roll out so could accommodate safe visiting throughout the summer as we knew how important it was – when most homes couldn’t accommodate it, we were ahead of the curve.”
“For families, the impact was instantaneous. It’s given them such peace of mind,” adds Kay. “While PPE still has to be worn and social distancing observed, we are doing everything in our power to allow visits to take place with dignity and a sense of normality.”
Staying connected to those we love is really the best Christmas gift of all.
Timing is crucial
Loneliness and isolation are exacerbated during the cold, dark winter months, so the timing of the tests has been crucial.
The announcement that a vaccine rollout will start imminently, with care home workers and residents at the top of the list, has also helped to boost spirits. Beyond this, Kay also believes that the changes they’ve made throughout the pandemic will ensure that care homes will be even more desirable in the future.
“We’ve certainly accelerated innovation,” says Kay. “We’ve listened closely to our residents and invested in technology and developed new activities, which will make our homes even better in the future.”