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Report Reveals Emotional Toll On Care Home Staff During COVID-19 Pandemic

The challenges faced by care home staff during the COVID-19 pandemic and the strategies they used to cope are the topic of research led by Lancaster University.

Care homes experienced not only a devastating toll on residents but also emotional pressures on staff caring for them.

The study was led by Professor Nancy Preston of the International Observatory on End of Life Care with colleagues from Newcastle and Sheffield.

The researchers explored the impact of the early waves of the pandemic between Autumn 2020 and Summer 2021 on the emotional well-being of care home staff.

Interviews were conducted with 16 UK care home staff and 10 health service staff working with them, exploring their experiences and responses to the crisis.

Dr Zoë Cockshott, one of the study authors from Lancaster University said: “Care home staff described the early months of the pandemic as a very difficult time, but we were struck by how many of them talked about a strong sense of duty and responsibility for their residents, and the need to ‘just get on with it’ despite the challenges and risks to their own health.”

The findings suggest four key areas that summarise the impact of and response to the pandemic for care home staff:

  • Anxiety and Distress: Staff faced fear and uncertainty, witnessed the illness and loss of residents, and had concerns about their own health and recognition of their work.
  • Overwhelming Workload: Infection control measures, caring for sick residents, and reduced external healthcare support contributed to an increased workload for care home staff.
  • Pulling Through: Staff managed the emotional impact of the pandemic through peer support, problem-solving strategies, and a sense of responsibility towards their work.
  • Resilience in a Time of Crisis: Staff demonstrated resilience, often increasing their efforts to meet the demands of the pandemic, despite the challenges

Care Home staff found it particularly difficult when they had a COVID-19 outbreak in their care home, with one carer telling researchers,

“I mean it was awful because we knew it was going to eventually happen… and we’re like, ‘It’s coming’. And unfortunately, it was horrific for us because obviously a lot of our people are very vulnerable… we unfortunately lost, I think it was 11 residents we lost, and one member of staff to COVID over a space of about three weeks.”

The study’s conclusions highlight the emotional impact of the pandemic on care home staff and highlight the need for preparedness for future crises, including pandemics. By addressing the needs of frontline workers, policymakers can better prepare and improve support systems for care homes.

 

 

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