3 Sep 2020

Effects of COVID-19 pandemic in the residential care setting


We have experienced two platforms with residents who contracted the virus in March and April and are now categorised as recovering from COVID-19.

8-12 weeks from the onset of symptoms we noticed that some residents were becoming unwell, not with repeated COVID-19 symptoms but frailty and end of life pathway. Sadly, we have recently lost two of those who were recovering cases.

It has certainly left the vulnerable elderly weak and compromised existing health conditions.

Cognition

Those who have capacity appear to have had a good understanding of the virus and the pandemic and this was helped by the home meeting with residents to explain what was happening in the care home and outside in the wider community.

For those with dementia, it has been a very different situation and very challenging. The staff have demonstrated their Hospitaller skills through compassion, kindness, inclusion and patience in abundance and as their manager I am very proud of them.

Tina Boyland.

Emotional and social

Those who have the capacity to understand the situation have experienced feeling vulnerable themselves, fearful for their own family members, especially those who have relatives that work in the NHS, education and health and social care.

They have been overwhelmingly complimentary of the staff working in the thick of the pandemic and this has been very well received by staff.

They have of course missed their families visiting the home, but some were able to use Skype and WhatsApp well, whilst others struggled and on occasions, it was quite funny. An example of this was when we started the video calls from the GP. Residents wanted to keep touching the screen and couldn’t quite understand why they could see themselves on the phones. One lady said ‘Oh, if I’d have known I would have had my hair done’ it did make us laugh, which we certainly needed at times.

For those residents with dementia, it has been quite a different story. We have seen deterioration with Alzheimer’s Disease, increased confusion, increased wandering, sad faces and faces that clearly show us that they didn’t understand what was going on.

How being has it been for the residents with other conditions?

It is likely that the effects of the virus will leave those with existing underlying health conditions weaker, more compromised and at a high risk of infection for the future. As mentioned earlier, three months on we can now see the effects and consequences it has on the vulnerable, which sadly includes the end of life.

It is likely that there will be an increased need for the use of antibiotics to treat respiratory infections.

It would be appropriate to also consider further training for care staff on specific health conditions in order to support these future risks.

The new normal!

This is a new expression that we find ourselves constantly using, and there is no doubt that life is very different and will be for some considerable time, if not forever.

We are still very cautious in our procedures within the home, with reduced visiting, screening, temperature taking, more use of PPE – to name but a few practices.

We are being realistic and preparing for a potential second wave of the COVID-19 virus. We are updating our contingency planning and ensuring we keep sufficient stock of PPE and liaising with professionals in this preparation. An example of this would be that we have already been asked by the GP practice if we would trial and train staff to use state of the art death verification equipment.

We have learnt a lot, experienced changes, felt drained, exhausted and emotionally tested but this will have helped to contribute to our preparation for what may be just around the corner.

Keep safe and be sensible are my closing words….