What’s going on with the CHARM project?

So, “what happened to the CHARM project? – they’ve been awfully quiet,” I hear you ask. Isabelle Latham, the Project Manager is here to tell you!

CHARM logo

We’re still here and have been beavering away in the background, but – as with many research projects involving care homes – the pandemic has required a lot of persistence, flexibility, support and experimentation to try and keep the project on track!

CHARM start back in October 2019. The aim of the project is to use a “researcher-in-residence” model where experienced researchers support staff, visitors and residents in 4 care homes to design and implement their own unique and meaningful research projects, and then to evaluate how well that approach works.

Everything started swimmingly. We met together as a whole team for our research training days in December 2019 and March 2020, and in between times the care homes consulted planned and prepared to begin their first mini projects. We had projects on communication, making the most of mealtimes, finding out about life history and using the Pool Activity Level Tool to enhance care. In early March 2020, all our care homes were through the planning stages of our Action-Research cycle and JUST about to start collecting data for their projects and THEN…

Image showing research cycle and where each of the four care homes was back in March

When the pandemic hit, we knew we needed to support our care homes to focus on their core jobs during what would be a tough time for them, their staff, residents and families. So initially we paused their involvement in the project whilst we got on with some of the “desk-based work” such as designing our guidance manual (more on that soon!).

Our restart date of October 2020 felt so far away, and yet when it came around things were still very uncertain (and little did we know there was another COVID “wave” and lockdown still to come). However, all of our care homes wanted to try and get started again, even if it was much more gradually and virtually than they hoped! So, slowly, Zoom meeting by Zoom meeting, each of the care homes has re-engaged at their own pace and we’ve tried to:

  • Support the work they’ve done over the pandemic 
  • Consult them about how best to move forward    
  • Remind them and celebrate what CHARM has achieved so far, as shown in this video
  • Revised, rejigged, reworked and rejuvenated their projects and ideas to get back on track!

I’m pleased to report that as of May, all four care homes are back in research mode! They weren’t always able to return to their original projects – because staff capacity is diminished, resident needs and abilities have changed, and families have faced a year of restricted visiting – but new exciting opportunities have sprung up: using technology, communicating with families, valuing the staff team.

By the end of July we will have 7 mini-projects to share findings from as well as an awful lot of data about what helped and hindered CHARM to work, the impact it’s had despite the pandemic, and what recommendations we can make for rolling it out on a bigger scale.  

So, coming soon… Project Report 1 “How has communication in the care home been affected during COVID for family members and residents and what can we learn from our approach?”

Watch this space and we’ll keep you updated.


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