A challenging time for care
Health care providers, such as care homes and hospices, have been significantly impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. Many operators were forced into their own lockdown which for some included no friends and family visiting residents, no contractors or suppliers entering the building and in some extreme scenarios, no new residents or patients.
With care homes, like any other business, needing to continue to operate in the ordinary course as much as possible, they have relied on connectivity and technology possibly more than ever. The sector had to adapt quickly, with the Care Quality Commission postponing any form of visits to care homes unless it was an urgent or life threatening matter. For those still taking new residents, some care homes would use connectivity and technology to host virtual viewings of the home.
For most of the lock down a lot of care homes and hospices placed a temporary ban on all visitors, including family and friends, until the Government provided advice and guidance to ensure it was safe to do so. A particular issue facing the social care sector is that no two care providers are the same whether it be the type and age of building they occupy or the type of care that is provided.
Consequently, some care operators are significantly restricted in what options are available to them to ensure they can allow visitors, such as space and access, but still comply with the governments guidance and requirements around Covid-19.
"Whilst care providers have wanted to be as accommodating as they possibly can, they have had to put the health and safety of their residents, staff and visitors first."
Whilst the respective Local Authorities provided certain funding to the social care sector to recover some Covid-19 related costs, not all costs would be funded and so this has left many operators with difficult decision to be made about what measures could be put in place and at what cost, particularly if their income was reducing.
We’ve been chatting to some of our clients
Many of our care home clients adapted in different ways. Some built temporary buildings outside, adjacent to the care home, for visits to residents however as identified by many of the operators, this came at an additional expense not only to acquire and build, but maintain and sterilize.
Others (weather permitting) allowed visits to the residents window from the outside with certain restrictions which has proved difficult trying to manage that to ensure visitors were not having physical contact with residents by holding hands through the window or passing any items to them which was not in accordance with the care homes policies.
What connectivity and technology has enabled the social care sector to do during this pandemic is adapt its day to day operations. Some operators have set up video conferencing rooms for residents to see and speak with friends and family although this has not been without its difficulties, particularly where certain residents have health issues that prevent them from speaking.
Cynthia Spencer Hospice wellbeing service continues...
“Cynthia Spencer Hospice’s wellbeing service continues to take referrals and help patients feel as supported at home as they would do if they were attending sessions at the Wellbeing Centre. The team has adapted programmes so they can be followed by patients using virtual meeting platforms like Microsoft Teams. The programmes being provided include techniques to help patients manage breathlessness and fatigue and to stay as active as possible with activities like Seated Tai Chi. Videos have also been developed for patients to follow whenever they want to. Social support is important to help patients feel less isolated so the team has put in place a programme of regular telephone calls to patients. Calls are mainly made by volunteers, either once or twice a month, and where possible by the same person so patients have contact from a regular familiar and friendly voice. Monthly packs featuring entertainment, fun activities and advice on various aspects of wellbeing are also sent out to patients.”
Victoria Garratt, Marketing Manager
Peace Hospice Care changed how they supported their patients...
“As a result of the lockdown we changed how we supported our patients who previously visited the Hospice for groups and activities. Whilst we couldn’t see them face-to-face we made more use of phone, apps and teleconference facilities, as well as social media, to keep in touch with them and continue to support them in managing their conditions. We also made more use of tablets and devices to enable family and friends to keep in touch with patients in our Inpatient Unit and to enable staff to maintain contact with patients in their own homes.”
Hils Lythgoe, Head of Facilities & IT
Willen Hospice has embraced new ways of working…
“Like everyone, we’ve had to make a number of changes at Willen Hospice to ensure we can keep our doors open and care for local people during the pandemic. Technology has played a key part in this so that we can continue to provide our services. Our Willen at Home team have made more than 7,800 phone calls since the start of the pandemic; our inpatient unit nurses are making it possible for patients to see loved ones via phone and video call when they can’t visit; our physio has delivered sessions virtually either live or on pre-recorded YouTube videos; our Lymphoedema Team continued to support patients outside of the clinic setting by seeing them virtually for ongoing assessment and care planning; our Therapeutic and Wellbeing service has taken to Teams to hold counselling sessions; and our Complementary Therapist has even been offering ballet-fit and yoga sessions virtually.
Technology has allowed our support services to work at home, and flexibly between locations. Everyone who needed a laptop or tablet, was issued one. This was not just for support staff but for our Willen at Home nurses too, who have been able to complete patient notes ‘on the go’ using tablets, rather than having to return to the Hospice. Our income generation teams have sought new ways to raise money, with the use of text to donate, Facebook fundraisers, QR codes and contactless donation technology. This is helping us to keep a presence locally, raising money while ensuring safety is the upmost priority. Much of what we have done, has only been possible thanks to the generosity of local people, businesses and funders. For that we are incredibly grateful.”
Clair Jackson, Marketing Manager
"The news has highlighted the pressures on care providers and separated families unable to visit loved ones and many will have felt this first hand with approximately 411,000 people currently living in care in England and Wales."
Restrictions were implemented some two to three weeks prior to the government’s full lock down announcement in March 2020, to include a restriction on all personal care packages.
A colleague shared her personal experience over the past seven months with her father being resident in a care home...
“We had always been reliant on regular trips to see Dad, and all of a sudden this was not available to us. Unfortunately we were not able to use technology to connect with him over skype, facetime etc; it seemed that not only was the infrastructure at the home not capable of facilitating this, but also there were no staff dedicated to assisting the residents with this sort of thing, the majority of whom are unwell and/or elderly. I’m sure it varies from care home to care home, but in our case we would welcome not only improvements to technology but also investment in staff members to assist the residents using this. Instead of connectivity, we are reliant upon once weekly 45 minute garden visits; these were eventually implemented in August after five months of no communication with Dad, but we are worried about what will happen as we move into the winter months”.
This highlights the variation in connectivity from place to place, and the need for further funding and improvements within this sector.
In these uncertain times care providers, like many business, will have to adapt the way they operate their businesses. Whilst many care providers have managed to stabilize their situation and keep their homes and hospices functioning, this pandemic may be the catalyst to change in the way services are delivered and how connectivity and technology is used in the social care sector.
Get in touch
For more information on this update, please contact Senior Associate, Jordan Glackin.