I wasn’t surprised to read that in a recent survey of Care Home owners, only 3%1 reported that since the start of the pandemic their ‘mental health has not been impacted’.
The remaining 97%1 stated that the pandemic has had a significant and adverse effect on their mental health and wellbeing. 97%. These figures are astounding, yet not unexpected. Care homes were one of the tragedies of the early stages of the pandemic – with huge breakouts in positive cases, residents locked in, and all visitors kept away. For staff and owners, they were suddenly faced with the dilemma of ‘how do we keep our residents safe, whilst ensuring our employees stay physically fit and mentally well’.
As we now adjust to a new way of living, we assess some of the impacts of the pandemic on care home operators and what can be done to create a happier and healthier workforce.
It Wasn’t Just Residents That Suffered
Care home residents were some of the most affected in the early days of the pandemic. Unable to have visitors, confined to their rooms with all opportunities to engage in activities completely removed. It was of course, for their own safety, but the impact of these restrictions was vast and outcomes largely unknown.
The impact of Covid-19 on all staff, both those caring day in-day out and those in charge of the home, has been significant, too; however this is rarely focused on. 40% of care home operators reported having more regular low moods, with 37% reporting increased anxiety1. Despite huge declines in the wellbeing of operators and staff, 72% of workers said they’ve not been offered professional mental health support during the pandemic2. There is a clear and worrying impact on care home workers and operators that needs to be addressed, and fast.
The Challenge Now
Two years on since the start of the pandemic and a 2022 study has found that 84% of care homes surveyed are concerned about attracting new employees to their business1. The first step in overcoming this must be to create a genuinely positive and enjoyable workplace for all employees. This energy and enthusiasm is likely to influence how residents and prospective workers feel about being there.
The pandemic significantly disrupted daily care practices, with staff often required to take on additional roles within the home and increase their workload due to lack of agency staff and staff shortages3. The backlog in adequate training of staff has also added to this challenging picture.
There is an ongoing and growing need for more targeted mental health support for staff within care homes. With reports of anxiety, stress and burnout at some of the highest levels seen in recent years, wellbeing support is vital.
Boosting Morale and Creating a Great Place to Work
Care homes are looking for new and innovative ways to improve the mental wellbeing and morale of their workforce. There are some fantastic examples of good practice within healthcare settings, including wellbeing support thorough Covid-19 support lines, free use of health and wellbeing apps, such as Headspace, and peer-led initiatives such as yoga and meditation4.
At Rugged, we’ve witnessed some of these initiatives first-hand in several care sites. We’ve had reports from care home owners and workers that our CardioWall® has helped build resident-staff relationships, encourage residents to leave their rooms to be more social and act as a focal point for group therapy/exercise.
We strongly believe that through improving staff wellbeing and morale, working effectiveness and efficiency will increase too – creating a happier and healthier place for every staff member and resident.
by Lucy Manley