Throughout the Coronavirus pandemic, we’ve seen a recurring trend within the social care sector as carers, service users and families have been significantly affected.
Health and social care workers are without a doubt, one of the largest proportions of key-workers within this pandemic, and 15% of them are at a heightened risk of COVID-19 due to health conditions including asthma, heart disease and diabetes.
Rates of infection
Research has found that those working in more patient-facing roles were testing higher for positive COVID-19 symptoms, over those who were in non-patient facing roles. Almost 40% of care home deaths throughout the UK have taken place since the beginning of the pandemic.
Although care homes were originally closed when the virus first began to take effect in the UK, staff throughout care homes – who did come and go – were bringing the risk of infection through the doors.
Throughout March and April, over 250,000 patients were discharged from hospitals into care homes – without being tested for the virus. This move was at the peak of the virus and enabled it to be ‘seeded’ within so many vulnerable homes – and did prove to become impossible to control.
A shortage of PPE has been a consistent issue for care homes since the beginning of the pandemic, which has resulted in over 3000 reports to Unison and an increase in service users and staff testing positive for the virus.
Taking its (mental) toll
Not only has the rate of deaths within care homes due to COVID-19 been hard to take, restrictions on care homes has also had a large effect on the mental well-being of service users. A number of deaths have already taken place in the last 6-months; not just due to Coronavirus; but because service user health has declined due to being cut-off from their loved ones.
Boris Johnson recently announced new restrictions in England, as a response to the rising numbers of the virus, which threaten to be in place for a further 6-months – a whole year since the initial lockdown began.
Although restrictions for care homes were lifted in the summer, many have now taken the tough decision to reintroduce visiting bans – much to the dismay of families and service users.
Caroline Abrahams, the charity director at Age UK, told The Telegraph restrictions could leave elderly care home residents alone for a year.
She said: ‘Given where we are now with Covid-19, we worry that more and more care homes will now shut their doors to visitors, either off their own bat or because their local director of public health instructs them to do so.
‘It is crucial that we protect care home residents from the risk of infection, but that’s only one of the two enormous risks that have to be managed here.
‘The other is the risk of undermining older people’s mental and physical health by cutting them off from those they love for a long time.
‘There is ample evidence from the pandemic to date that, in these circumstances, many care home residents have gone downhill fast and a number have died prematurely without ever seeing their families and friends again.’
While the aim of restrictions is to avoid families and visitors bringing the risk of infection within care homes and reaching the most vulnerable; the tough balance of poor mental health must be considered.
A plan for winter
The UK Government last week announced an Adult Social Care Winter Plan, to curb the spread of the virus throughout winter within care settings. As many labelled the handling of care homes throughout the first-wave an ‘utter shambles’, calls for a clean plan were demanded.
The plan will include free PPE for care home staff and a £546-million Infection Control Fund. However, a request has since been placed by leading charities such as Alzheimer’s UK for free PPE for relatives, so they can visit their loved ones.
At Cura Products, we have a wide range of products available to assist care homes with their infection control measures. From PPE to sanitiser, and washroom cleaners to laundry equipment, we aim to ensure all health and social care settings have access to much needed equipment at a low-cost.