Physical health of nursing home residents ‘deteriorated during pandemic’

Families of people in care homes and other residential settings during the pandemic have described an acute decline in the physical health of their loved ones, leaving them shocked and distressed, a report reveals today.

Residents suffered from weight loss, limited mobility, pressure sores, dehydration and an unkempt appearance.

Dublin City University’s (DCU) study of the impact of Covid-19 on residents, their families and staff in care homes found that isolation, loss of connectedness and a reduction in the quality of care “resulted in significant distress, both physical and psychological social impact”.

It said staff reported high levels of stress, trauma and burnout while family’s contribution to care was suspended, with adverse consequences.

On the study were Dr. Mary Rose Sweeney and Prof. Anthony Staines from DCU’s School of Nursing, Psychotherapy and Community Health.

Their findings included:

l Family members experienced fear, distress, anxiety, loneliness, helplessness, frustration, and trying to be outside in all weathers to communicate through a window;

l At least one in three residents was confined to their own room without company during the first wave of the pandemic;

l Staff observed many adverse psychosocial effects for residents and families, with the most significant being being unable to see loved ones during the pandemic, leading to loneliness and loss of connection;

l Staff felt high levels of stress and burnout, followed by concerns about virus transmission, trauma, fear of the deaths of residents and themselves.

The study’s authors said it was clear that in “future outbreaks of communicable diseases, the needs and rights of residents to see their loved ones should be balanced with the need for public health.”

The report highlighted how people felt years of underinvestment in government facilities had led to residents sharing bedrooms and this combined with poorly ventilated common areas contributed or facilitated the spread of the virus.

Transmission of infected patients from the acute hospital setting and rotation of staff between different sites resulted in transmission.

A high proportion of staff and carers felt that the rate of infection could have been reduced with more effective and diligent infection control measures.

Family members believed residents who did not have relatives to stand up for them were at greater risk during the pandemic.

The report also highlighted several issues related to staffing, including a low staff-to-patient ratio due to staff shortages due to self-isolation, illness and redeployment. There were concerns about high turnover and not enough managers. Physical health of nursing home residents ‘deteriorated during pandemic’

Fry Electronics Team

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