What is the future of nursing home care post-COVID?

Note: This is part two of a two-part blog post. You can read part one, which covers how care homes (like Fulford) are adapting to life post-lockdown, here

Little by little, life in the care sector is edging closer to something resembling normality. Pressure is easing, visitors are returning, and residents are starting to enjoy the outings and activities paused during the height of the pandemic.

However, there’s no denying that, after two years of COVID, some things will never be the same again. And while it’s too early to tell if the future of nursing home care will be brighter in the long run, there’s still scope for optimism.  

In this article, we explore just some of the ways we believe nursing home care will change for the better after the COVID pandemic.

1. Staff mental health and wellbeing will receive extra attention

Throughout the pandemic, our staff (and care staff up and down the country) showed remarkable resilience, determination, and compassion as they worked tirelessly to deliver vital services to residents. Unsurprisingly, this has come at a cost to their mental wellbeing. 

We know that burnout is a significant side effect of the pressure care workers have faced during COVID. However, the King’s Fund has highlighted that problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, and compassion fatigue also tend to increase among health and care professionals in the aftermath of similar major events and disasters.

This suggests that any response to the mental health struggles of nursing home staff shouldn’t be for the short term. Instead, we need to see a sustained and joined-up approach to supporting mental health in the care sector. For example, providing more comprehensive access to counselling or tackling the staff shortages that have led to chronic overworking. 

How we’ve put this into practice:

We’ve added healthcare and the Bupa advice & counselling helpline to our staff benefits. We also paid two bonuses in recognition of our staff’s tireless work. 

Furthermore, we’ve involved staff in the planning of our resident well-being project. One of the most significant impacts on staff morale is feeling like you’ve not done enough to make a difference. We want to ensure our staff feel engaged with our initiatives from the outset. 

And finally, we’ve successfully applied for two licences to recruit overseas staff to minimise understaffing, which causes staff to be tired and overworked. 

2. Community support will have a huge part to play in care (again)

Prior to COVID, community support was an invaluable part of nursing home care. We welcomed several local groups and volunteers into our space, allowing them to interact with residents and bring a bit of fun and variety to our activity schedule. 

During COVID, however, we had to push pause on these in-person visits. Strict social distancing and virus control measures meant we had to be especially vigilant about who could come into the home, and while we could fall back on virtual events, it simply wasn’t the same. 

Now with visits back on the table, we can see just how crucial our local community is to the mental wellbeing of our residents. For the past two years, we’ve witnessed a pandemic within a pandemic — that of loneliness. With families unable to visit, many residents felt isolated, while those without a strong support network outside the home definitely missed the opportunity to socialise with volunteers and events providers.

Going forward, local support will once again play a vital role in care, helping us tackle loneliness and isolation. We hope to see more funding made available to help us more regularly engage with our wonderful community here in York. 

Read more: 20+ social activities enjoyed by our nursing home residents

How we’ve put this into practice: 

As we mentioned above, we’re currently completing well-being care plans for all our residents to identify what they want to do. 

Alongside that, we’re creating a community directory so we know how to access local services, what is available, and how we can connect with volunteers. Ultimately, our goal is to create a Friends of Fulford network. 

3. Digital technology will become commonplace across the sector

If we can find even a sliver of a silver lining during the pandemic, it’s that our sector has come on leaps and bounds where digital technology is concerned. 

Beforehand, resident information was often split between health and social care, and it was sometimes challenging to see the full picture where patient records were concerned. 

Now, however, there’s a great deal more uniformity to our databases, allowing for a more streamlined approach to care. If a resident moves from the hospital to the home (or vice-versa), we know we have all the information we need at our fingertips. 

What’s more, many of our residents (and staff) have become savvier where digital devices are concerned. This has allowed them (and us) to maintain a connection with the outside world via social media and video conferencing.

Ultimately, we hope that the UK Government will set out plans to help more care homes use digital technology for the benefit of their residents. This should include financial support to fund the purchase of equipment and practical training to ensure staff have the necessary skills and knowledge to make the most of the technology.

How we’ve put this into practice:

Technology is playing a larger part, but we still have quite a way to go to access all records. We are working hard with our system partners to achieve this by supporting the Discharge meetings, Partner in Care events, and working closely with the City of York Council and Clinical Commissioning Group.

If you’d like to learn more about Fulford’s approach to nursing care, call us on 01904 654 269. We’re ready to listen and happy to help.

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