Summary of report content
Healthwatch Bucks undertook a survey about care homes to find out how lockdown measures, government guidance and the decisions made by the care homes themselves impacted on residents and their loved ones. They ran a survey from 16 March to 31 May 2020. They received 292 responses to the survey.
Relatives of loved ones living with dementia felt less informed than other relatives about certain aspects of the resident’s life, including about their physical health. Some relatives were concerned about the lack of choice residents had over their lives and many were worried about impact of spending more time alone in bedrooms and receiving less stimulation from activities or people would have on residents’ mental health.
Most relatives were not permitted to visit/receive visitors, although most people at end of life could have visitors by May. Video calls for most replaced face to face visits. This method of communication did not suit all residents and some people did not talk to loved ones for months
Information Technology suddenly became very important when care homes closed to family and professionals. The adoption of new IT, such as iPads, helped to keep some families in touch, but not all homes had a robust IT infrastructure to support the increased use of IT at this time, and not all staff understood how to use the IT available or what support residents needed. Keeping in touch using IT tools is often confusing and does not work well for some residents, particularly those living with dementia, or a hearing/sight loss.
Many care homes have faced the challenge of staff self-isolating, shielding or being absent due to fear. Some have staff who are all permanent whilst others have more agency staff. People were grateful for the care and kindness shown by staff when the latter were working in pressured and uncertain times.
The report contains a number of recommendations aimed at Buckinghamshire County Council and care homes to better support care homes, residents and relatives during the pandemic.