CHARM Care Home Research Study

How well has our care home used technology to adapt to the changes created by the COVID pandemic?”

Four care homes participated in the CHARM research project, conducting two mini-research projects each. This blog shares the experiences of Park Farm Lodge Care Home in Tamworth and their second mini-research study.

Park Farm Lodge is part of Liberty Healthcare and thanks go especially to Donna Sealey and Beci Paul for their work as part of the Park Farm Lodge Research Working Group.

Stage 1: Find out, plan and prepare

The initial plans for project 1 had to be put on hold due to the COVID pandemic. When Park Farm Lodge restarted their involvement in the CHARM project, they decided that they wanted to consider an area of practice that had been affected by the pandemic to focus on during their second project. They also needed to conduct the research in way that adapted to the extra stresses the pandemic was causing in the very busy 80 resident home– the research working group reduced from 6 members of staff to just 2!

During the COVID pandemic, Park Farm Lodge adopted many new ways of working. Lots of these included embedding the use of technology more into the home, to cater to the ever-changing circumstances. Park Farm Lodge wanted to investigate what different groups of people from within the home thought about the enhanced use of technology, so that they could maintain any effective methods in to the future, post the COVID pandemic.

The research project they developed was called: How well has our care home used technology to adapt to the changes created by the COVID pandemic?

A plan was then made on how to explore this involving various groups across the home. They created three versions of a survey, based on questions around technology in the home for the following groups:

  1. Staff
  2. Families/Visitors
  3. Residents

The survey questions were developed referring to a list of the technology that was being used in the home. This included Skype/video calls, family and staff Facebook groups, the use of Teki-Hub (designed by the organisation TekiHealth, that provides telemedicine solutions to healthcare organisations) and their interactive activity table. The questions were designed to find out what was successful, what hadn’t been as successful and any ideas for improvements. You can read more about the data collection methods and ethics application in the Project Overview Document (see below for link). The project was particularly liked by our lay ethics reviewer Roy Dibble – who understood the challenges of technology in care homes as he has seen it first hand when visiting his wife through the pandemic.

Stage 2: Act and make things happen

Stage 2 was about carrying out all that had been planned in Stage 1! The research team at Park Farm Lodge used their Staff and Relative Facebook groups to make announcements about the project and invite people to participate in an anonymous survey. The team decided to develop their survey online in order to reach family members and visitors who were unable to visit the home.

Residents were also invited to participate in a questionnaire, however it was found that many of the residents were unable to answer the questions, meaning the team didn’t receive any responses.

The team received back 24 responses from families/visitors, which was a larger number than was hoped for. 13 staff members completed surveys – which was fewer than hoped, and it also took a long time to encourage this many responses.

Stage 3: Study, watch and listen

Once all the data was gathered it was time to find out what it told the care home and what they could learn from it. With the help of the CHARM researchers-in-residence from the Association for Dementia Studies they produced descriptive statistics (numbers) in the form of graphs and charts from the surveys and summarised the information in a report and an action plan. The production of an action plan enabled the care home to have a list of various thoughts around technology at Park Farm Lodge to work with and develop on in the future. You can read the full report of the findings using the link below.

For Park Farm Lodge, one of the things they learned through the process of doing the research was that their communication with staff had not been as successful as hoped (it took much longer and resulted in lower engagement than they had expected). In addition, they had over-estimated the ability of residents to respond without the support of staff. This became a “finding” of the research in its own right – even though it was broader than the specific topic they were examining.

Stage 4: Reflect, think, discuss and change

Now that Park Farm Lodge had their key findings, they needed to go through and decide what that meant to them. There would be no point in doing research if you just stopped at reporting findings. The care home wrote an action plan as part of their final report which summarised what their next steps would be. They shared these findings with families and visitors, staff and residents by designing a poster that you can see using the link below.

What did the project find?

The project produced a good level of response from families/visitors but less engagement than was hoped for from staff. In addition, not being able to get responses from residents was also a disappointment. It was concluded that overall, the increased use of technology at Park Farm Lodge during the pandemic has been received positively and that, from those who responded there is a broad consensus to continue using this technology. Both families/visitors and staff provided feedback that it has been helpful and had helped to improve communication, particularly between the home and families/visitors. The following Action Plan was decided upon to make use of the findings from the research.

Action Plan

  • Maintain the families Facebook group

This has proved to be very popular and so we will make sure to keep it running even when visiting to the home returns to normal. We recognise that it contributes to a sense of community, particularly for those who are not able to visit regularly

  • Maintain use of video calls/facetime/email

These aspects will continue to be useful for families who are unable to visit regularly and so we shall continue to use them to keep people informed and maintain links with their resident.

  • Explore additional technology to support those who are hard of hearing

We will explore whether there is any additional technology such as microphones, amplifying headphones and stands for IPADS to help those residents who struggle with the technology.

  • Increased consultation with families and visitors

Having seen how useful it is as a tool for consultation, we will continue to utilise the families Facebook group as a route to gain opinion and involvement of families into the work of Park Farm Lodge

  • Await local infrastructure improvements to Wi-Fi

By far the overwhelming challenge identified was the inconsistency of our Wi-Fi. Unfortunately, we have tried everything (including financial investment) to improve this but the problem is with the infrastructure of the area as a whole. When we hear word that this is to be upgraded we will act to ensure the home’s connection can be upgraded as well.

  • Improve staff communication

We believe that our difficulties in engaging staff in responding to our survey may be indicative of a wider challenging in communication with staff across the home.

  • Monitor staff comfort and confidence with technology

We did not receive enough responses to really explore this issue with staff, however those we did receive suggested a small minority of staff who, whilst not negative in their experiences or lacking in confidence, were also not overly positive. Therefore, it will be important to continue to monitor this and ensure staff have the practice and support to use the technology available, particular if its use becomes more widespread.

  • Share the findings from this project

We will share the findings from the survey and our actions in staff team meetings, via the Facebook groups and sharing copies of this report and using a poster. We hope that this will not only demonstrate the actions we are taking, but also help to work towards achieve the sixth point in the action plan regarding staff communication.

Full findings are available in the final report using the link below.

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