Care homes take steps to protect their residents

The Berkshire Care Association says care homes are asking relatives to be understanding of decisions made 'against their traditional ethos' in order to prevent virus outbreaks.
Photo of care home seating

Care homes in Reading are putting in changes to cope with coronavirus, which could include moving to appointment-only visits to residents.

As of 19 March 2020, care homes were not in complete ‘lockdown’ but may be putting in some or all of the following measures (see box) according to the Berkshire Care Association, which represents many care homes.

A template letter drawn up by the BCA for families of care home residents, says: ‘Much of this goes against our ethos and ideals, however after much discussion, research, information sharing with other providers and external stakeholders, risk assessing and questions from many of you, we have had do make some rather uncomfortable decisions in the hope of protecting and promoting best outcomes for those we care for, staff and visitors.  Ultimately, why take unnecessary risks? We know this will be very hard for some people, and for that we sincerely apologise in advance.’

Actions by care homes

  • Allowing visitors in on an appointment-only basis to ensure residents can be seen in designated places and avoid lots of movement around the care home
  • Encouraging relatives to use ‘video chats’ with residents with any communal iPad or other technology in care homes, at times pre-arranged with staff
  • Asking family and friends not to visit residents if they are unwell in any way, including, coughs, colds, headaches or other illness
  • Changing main door keycodes to number only known by staff, to stop people coming in accidentally without letting the care home know in advance
  • Asking visitors to wash hands on arrival and when they leave
  • Stopping all non-essential appointments to the home, meaning for example, GPs may only do virtual consultations with residents
  • Reducing any usual ‘tactile’ contact such as hugs, by staff with residents to, ‘distance touch’ and reassuring words and kindness
  • Not serving tea or coffee to visitors and/or stopping visitors from using communal kitchens, to avoid potential ‘droplet’ cross infection
  • Stopping external group trips out of the home and stopping entertainers going into homes

In the event of an actual outbreak of coronavirus at a care home, which could lead to a full lockdown, the care home would have to follow Public Health guidance and would keep relatives informed.

The BCA says it would also be helpful for relatives to let care homes now, if they would potentially be free in the future to assist the home with tasks like meals, drinks washing and dressing, in the event of serious pressures such as an outbreak or staff sickness. ‘We do not expect you to do this, but it may be easier to ask this now so we know who may be willing and /or able if needed.’

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