‘Isolation’ of care home residents in Peterborough during COVID pandemic revealed

A new report has revealed the full extent of the isolation some care home residents felt in Peterborough during the COVID pandemic.

By Stephen Briggs
Tuesday, 29th March 2022, 2:18 pm
Updated Tuesday, 29th March 2022, 3:42 pm

The new Life in a care home report from Healthwatch in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough shares the experiences of more than forty people living in local care homes during the pandemic.

Strict rules were bought in the pandemic in a bid to keep the most vulnerable residents safe as the virus ripped through the country.

The rules meant people were unable to visit loved ones - and there were still outbreaks at care homes, causing further stress and anxiety for families.

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The full extent of isolation suffered by some care home residents in Peterborough during the pandemic has been revealed in a new report(Photo by Hugh Hastings/Getty Images) EMN-220329-140204005

In the new report, the full extent of those concerns has been revealed.

One person told Healthwatch: “Life is still more restricted for my relative than before Covid — mixing with other residents is still carefully controlled.”

And another said, “My relative’s mental health has suffered. I have not been able to visit since December 2020 due to their restrictions on visiting. Their visiting policy has not changed since the last lock down.”

Another said: “My mother now has trouble remembering who I am as she has had no face to face contact with me since December 2020.”

One visitor also raised concerns about communication problems caused by the need to wear face masks when visiting a resident. They said: ”I have to do a lateral flow test before visiting — therefore, since the person in residence is profoundly deaf it is completely stupid to insist I wear

a mask when trying to talk with them as they cannot hear me unless I am really close and not wearing a mask.”

Many families and friends praised the care residents receive, thanking staff for going that extra mile for their loved ones, despite the pressures that they are working under.

One family said “The care is extremely good, with consistently kind and good-humored staff” and “There is a very able Activities Co-ordinator who arranges all kinds of events for the residents”.

Another said, “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.”

However, staff shortages and the pressure this created was raised by four people. They told us how this affected basic nursing care, causing anxiety and worry for families and friends of residents.

“It does appear that they are short staffed at the moment which has meant that my relative often doesn’t get washed until midday, or even later.”

The situation was exasperated for residents with dementia. One person told Healthwatch: “They were very upset with me, not understanding why they had not seen me and blamed me for their situation.”

Whilst family members understood the measures put in place to protect people’s health, some people shared concerns around visiting restrictions, including limitations in visiting hours — in one home this was for only 15 minutes on one day of the week.

One person said they were unable to see their parent due to the care home’s lack of flexibility in visiting arrangements.

There were extended periods of isolation for residents, for example after hospital visits, especially when residents and visitors were vaccinated, and lateral flow tests were freely available.

Concerns over the closing of one home to visitors over Christmas 2021.

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.”

A number of recommendations were made in the report, including that patients should expect written details about voluntary organisations offering local support and Better communication and involvement for families and carers.