How the care needs of patients have changed during the pandemic.

September 10, 2020

Covid-19 has affected the lives of every single person in the UK in one form or another. The ever-rising number of deaths and the economic plight are frequently spoken of in the media. Yet, what about the social effect of the virus? There is no doubt that the pandemic has changed the care needs of patients, for those in care homes and for those who are at home.

We have noticed a paradigm shift from client’s enquiring about placing their loved ones into care homes during this time, to keeping their elderly parents at home and managing their long term illnesses as best they can.  Many are taking this decision as a necessary precaution to minimise the risk of contracting C19. According to the Office for National Statistics by May 1st there had been 8312 coronavirus deaths in care homes in England and Wales. This number totals a quarter of all coronavirus deaths to that date. It doesn’t inspire confidence that care homes are a safe space for your loved ones.

Care homes are particularly prone to coronavirus outbreaks due to close living quarters for residents, the necessary risk of having external staff come in to care for the residents and that often the elderly have underlying diseases that can affect their ability to fight off the virus. With this taken into account, it is unsurprising that people have opted to keep loved ones at home. A poll conducted by IPPR found a third of people were less likely to seek residential care as a result of COVID-19.

This shift in care needs affects both the cared for and those who have become sole care providers during lockdown, many whilst attempting to work or study. The full detrimental effect of the pandemic on mental health is still being explored. A recent study conducted by the Alzheimer’s Society found that 45% of participants said lockdown has caused their mental health to deteriorate. Isolated from friends and without usual routines, as well as the anxiety of being classed within the ‘vulnerable’ category is taking its toll.

So too on the caregivers who are caring full time for friends or family members. According to a BBC News report, there are an estimated 800,000 young carers in the UK, many of whom have taken on greater responsibilities of care during the lockdown, where vital supports and assessments have been put on hold. A poll conducted by the Carers Trust found that 40% of participants stated their mental health had worsened during lockdown. Without the reprieve of going to school or being able to see friends, young carers are experiencing high levels of uncertainty and anxiety, with many overwhelmed with the increased demands of care and feeling behind on schoolwork. They also found that 67% of young carers are more worried about what the future holds. 

The long term effects of COVID-19 on the care system are still unknown. Attitudes towards placing loved ones in care homes will not change overnight, and the mental health fall-out may with us for years to come. What is clear is that more awareness and more support is needed for those struggling to cope during the pandemic, and further research needs to be done to determine the best cause of action within the “new normal”.