Researchers at the University of East Anglia are launching a new project to investigate how people who live, visit and work in care homes have coped with Covid-19 infection-control measures.
They will work with residents, families and care home staff to better understand their experience of measures such as mask-wearing, visiting restrictions and social distancing during the pandemic.
The study, which has been funded by the National Institute of Health Research School of Social Care Research (NIHR SSCR), will help identify what more could be done in future to support residents, families and care home staff cope with measures that aim to control and reduce infectious disease outbreaks.
It has been funded as part of the NIHR SSCR’s mission to improve the evidence base for adult social care practice.
The team will work with more than 15 care homes across East Anglia in order to speak with care-home residents, family members and friends of residents and care home staff.
The ‘Understanding the lived experience of infection transmission in care homes’ (UCAIRE) study will run for one year. The project is a collaboration between researchers at UEA, Newcastle University, health and social care providers Care UK and a member of the public with extensive experience of supporting care-home residents.
Lead researcher Dr Kathleen Lane, from UEA’s School of Health Sciences, said: “Right from the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, older people’s care homes put in place extra infection-control measures. These included restricting visitors, wearing additional protective equipment and changing how care is given.
“But we do not know how those who live and work in care homes have coped with these infection-control measures or whether they met their needs.
“Our study will explore these questions by seeking the views of residents, family members and care home staff.
“We hope to gain as full a perspective as possible of what it has been like to live and work in care homes for older people during a time of infection transmission.”
The study will start with an online staff survey to provide broad insights, followed by interviews with residents, family members and staff. The research team will ask about what it was like to live and work in their care home with infection-control measures and how they experienced these in daily life.
Dr Lane said: “We want to understand the impact of the steps aimed to limit the spread of infection as well as to address the lack of knowledge about how behavioural, morale and implementation factors may have affected transmission.
“The views of residents, families and staff will also help us identify if more can be done in future to support their needs during infectious disease outbreaks in care homes,” she added.
Christen McDonnell, care home director of services at Leaf Care Services in Norwich and a member of the study’s expert advisory group, said: “Research of this nature is invaluable to changes in practice. Gaining insight into a broad spectrum of emotional, behavioural and physical challenges faced by residents, their families, and our staff through Covid will enable improvements to the future management of any pandemic and influence the coping strategies we implement.
“Insights from the study will give a steer on the level of operational and mental well-being support that is required, both as we begin to recover from Covid-19 and during any future pandemic.”
Prof Martin Green, Care England's Chief Executive whose organisation is represented on the study’s expert Advisory Group, said: "It is fantastic to be a part of supporting the development of this vital research.
“In the past, there has been somewhat of a research deficit when it comes to adult social care, such studies are therefore vital in plugging this gap.
“Whilst this research project has real potential to create positive change at the frontline of the adult social care sector despite all of the hardship that has been experienced within it over the past year. In particular, how it seeks to capture the lived experience of those care home staff, relatives and service users who all have valid stories and insight to share."