Residents, family and friends' experiences of residential care during the coronavirus pandemic

REPORT PUBLISHED 15 June 2022: Between January to March 2021, HW Kingston ran two surveys about the experiences of residents, and family members and friends of residents of residential care during the pandemic.
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Between January 2021 and April 2022, Healthwatch Kingston ran two surveys about the experience of residents, and family members and friends of residents of Care Homes, Supported Living Homes, and Extra Care Housing during the coronavirus pandemic.

Two online surveys were developed in collaboration with the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames, with support from members of the Healthwatch Kingston Community Care Task Group, to ask residents and their families and friends to describe their experience of residential care during the coronavirus pandemic.

We wanted to elicit as many views as possible from residents, so ‘Easy Read’ surveys were also prepared and then completed by residents with the assistance of third parties: mainly staff, carers and in some cases, family members.

Families and friends of residents were invited to complete a similar survey. For various reasons, they were able to be more forthcoming in their written responses, offering excellent insights into the experiences of both themselves and of their family members.

The majority of residents described themselves as being satisfied with the care they received. The challenges they faced had much more to do with their loss of autonomy and freedom than with the actual care received. Lack of access to their loved ones, loss of activities and social outings, isolation, loneliness, and physical contact were a few of the key causes of concern.  

For families and friends of residents, the lack of ability to spend time with their family members in residential care was particularly challenging and resulted in a feeling of powerlessness, as they were physically excluded from their loved one’s everyday lives. Concerns about their family member’s welfare, their lack of stimulation, self-isolation and their physical health were key challenges. But overall, the majority were satisfied with the care their family member or friend was receiving within their residential facility.

A majority of residents had been vaccinated against Covid-19 and medical care and medications were being provided, but emotional and mental health support was being provided by care home staff rather than by relevant professionals. Just over 30% of residents whose experiences inform this report were admitted to hospital during the pandemic with the majority being discharged back to their residential care facility.

Healthwatch Kingston key recommendations for the future:

  1. Commissioners and providers of residential care (care homes, supported living homes and extra care housing) need to ensure the provision of a safe and welcoming environment for residents, their families and friends, and for residential care staff and carers.
  2. Commissioners should work with providers of residential care to undertake and publish a review of lessons learnt during the pandemic for the future planning and provision of residential care services.
  3. All health and care stakeholders must ensure excellent communication channels between residents, their families and friends, and residential care staff and carers to facilitate the exchange of accurate and relevant information.
  4. Providers should maintain the use of social media channels and further develop the use of other technology to facilitate effective communications. Resources should be invested in staff training to make this possible.
  5. Commissioners and providers of residential care (care homes, supported living homes and extra care housing) should consider how to improve the transparency of decision-making on the arrangements being made in care homes and demonstrate how this is being informed by evidence and experience.
  6. Providers of residential care (care homes, supported living homes and extra care housing) should continue to re-introduce activities that encourage social activity and participation in decision-making by residents, ensuring these activities suit the needs of individual residents.
  7. Integrated Care System and Place leaders must ensure access to good medical care for all in residential care.

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