CHARM Care Home Research Study – Covid in a Care Home

Four care homes participated in the CHARM research project, conducting two mini-research projects each. This blog shares the experiences of Care UK’s Perry Manor Care Home in Worcester and their whole journey through the CHARM project.

Thanks go especially to Home Manager Katherine Matthews, Dementia Care Manager Donna White, Lifestyles Lead Tiffany Thompson and Dementia & Nursing Lead for Care UK Suzanne Mumford for their work as part of the Perry Manor Research Working Group.

The CHARM action research cycle, which is covered by the headings in the blog post.

Stage 1: Find out, plan and prepare

The team at Perry Manor originally planned and started a project exploring the best way to support their staff to use the PAL Tool (Pool Activity Level, 2011) to deliver dementia care. They went through all the planning stages, intending to compare the ‘usual’ use of the tool with a ‘bespoke’ version. They developed their own measurement tools and completed the extensive ethics steps because they wanted to involve people living with dementia. You can read about this project in the following booklet.

Stage 2: Act and make things happen

However, COVID hit just before they got a chance to move onto stage 2 of the research process! It was impossible to carry out the staff training or collect the data in the way they planned, because of the stresses and changes required by COVID protocols. Therefore, we had to “shelve” the original project (we’ve saved all the tools and work completed, so that the home can do the research in the future if they want to). At this point I will hand over to Tiffany Thompson, co-researcher extraordinaire, to tell the story on behalf of the Perry Manor research team.

“We originally planned on basing our CHARM project on the effects of using the tool with the residents on our Dementia suite. However, due to the world-wide pandemic and spread of Covid-19 our world was turned upside down. We had to pause our involvement in CHARM and we weren’t able to get restarted until the middle of 2021. We had to completely rethink what we would be able to do as a piece of research and how we would be able to do it, because our resident and staff group had changed so much in the intervening months, and we had only a limited timeframe left

The only thing that was consistently on our minds was coronavirus. That was when we realised that the most important thing that we could possibly do some research on was the virus. Perry Manor Care Home, like many other homes throughout the pandemic has had a very difficult time and this has had an effect on the staff, residents and their relatives. Sadly, our home experienced an outbreak which took the lives of many residents. These experiences have profound effects on us all, which is why we wanted to do our research project on this. We hoped that our research project could help share our experiences with the wider community but also help the staff, residents and relatives find some closure too.

The title of our research was: “COVID in a care home” The experience and impact of COVID-19 and the home’s recovery from a staff perspective

At first, we did not know if this project would be too difficult for staff to get involved with and so we didn’t know if we would be able to get the data needed for our project to work. We were blown away by the amount of staff who not only got involved but, in some cases, poured their hearts out sharing their experiences. 43 out of 60 staff returned their anonymous surveys and a further 12 staff volunteered to take part in interviews!

Stage 3: Study, watch and listen

When it came to reviewing the data collected, it opened a range of emotions. Some of the findings was so true and raw, that it was difficult to read, while others were so shockingly positive that I couldn’t help but smile. My and my colleagues’ main take away from this project, was just how much the staff are committed to the residents of Perry Manor. That their passion for enriching their lives and ensuring that their life continued to the best of its ability throughout the pandemic was vital.

Stage 4: Reflect, think, discuss and change

We wrote these findings up as a final report and designed a short booklet and poster to help share the findings in an eye-catching way:

The whole point of our project was to help our staff tell their COVID story in the hope that it would help Perry Manor, its staff residents and relatives, to move forwards. As part of our conclusions, we made the following action plan:

  • Share the findings with the Perry Manor staff team to demonstrate that their story has been heard
  • Consider ways that we can share these findings with residents and families and support them to tell their parts of the story as well.
  • Consider how we can share findings and what we have learned across Care UK – whilst being sensitive to staff confidentiality and anonymity.
  • Write this research up for publication in a journal (such as the journal of dementia care and the royal colleague of nursing journal) – again being sensitive to confidentiality and anonymity.
  • Continue the aspects of pandemic life that we have identified as positive (e.g. Namaste Care, activity trollies)
  • Maintain the teamwork, unity and support that existed though the pandemic.
  • Celebrate the milestones of return to normal (first trip, first café visit, first activity)
  • Understand that individuals will have a differentiated path to recovery
  • Remind ourselves that grieving and healing can be a long journey and that everyone’s experience will be different
  • Complete our memorial garden as a way to remember the residents we lost and the challenges we faced.

My experience of taking part in CHARM

Doing this research project has been an amazing experience for myself personally, as I have learnt so much! I have always been excited when it comes to learning anything new, so when I was asked if I would like to get involved with CHARM, I jumped at the opportunity. Throughout the project I have learn so many new skills and ways of working. I now understand how to make an ethics form, complete questionnaires, conduct interviews, complete data analysis and even put the data into a word cloud. I am very grateful for this experience and hope to get involved with more research in the future!”

Word cloud including words such as grateful, opportunity, learning, new.

Thanks for telling us about your project, Tiff! – The CHARM team

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