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Healthwatch care home report highlights issues of isolation

The new Life in a care home report from Healthwatch Cambridgeshire and Peterborough highlights how strict rules on care home visiting forced residents and their families apart during the pandemic
Care home hands

The new Life in a care home report from Healthwatch in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough shares the experiences of more than forty local people living in local care homes during the pandemic, between October 12 to December 22,  2021. 

Strict rules on care home visiting forced residents and their families apart during the pandemic. And the significant impact of the separation, isolation and lack of contact for residents and friends and relatives makes tough reading.   

The report also heard that getting “essential care giver” status — enabling vital care and companionship visits to residents — proved difficult for some families or was not recognised by some local care homes.  The feedback received also raised some concerns over end of life care. 

Although, most people were happy with the care and visiting situation in homes and felt homes had good Covid safety measures in place. 

There was praise for staff but also significant concerns about staff shortages with some reports of poor care as a result of this, including at the end of life. 

Just under half the people told Healthwatch, they’d had discussions about end-of-life care for their loved ones. And most felt wishes had been respected.

But sadly, two people said end of life wishes were not respected, with one raising significant concerns about poor care for their friend.

There was a lack of awareness of the essential care giver role within some homes and concerns about some homes restricting visiting over and beyond the Government’s guidelines. 

And concerns about the impact of long-term isolation on the mental health of care home residents. 

One family member said: "My mother now has trouble remembering who I am as she has had no face to face contact with me since December 2020."

While another relative shared a more positive feedback: "The care in this care home has brought me to tears. The staff treat mum like one of their family. Always kept me informed of everything that’s going on."

The report has been welcomed by councils and local NHS for providing "valuable" and "important" insights highlighting the challenges faced by care home staff, residents and their families.   

The care and social care champion, Healthwatch will be writing to  local care homes with a copy of the report, and asking them to implement these recommendations: 

  • All homes should implement the Government’s care home visiting guidance 
  • All care home should take up the new ReSPECT training programme — this is a way of making sure people can plan what they want to happen as part of their care in a health emergency, particularly at the end of life. 
  • Staffing levels should be adequate to provide for the quality of care people need. 

Sandie Smith, Chief Executive of Healthwatch Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, said: 

“The past two years have been a very difficult time for everyone. But our care home residents, their family and the staff who work there have been particularly affected. 

“This report tells some very difficult stories and these are sobering to read. 

We hope that care homes will take on our recommended improvements and so take some positive learning from this challenging time.”