The decision to transfer a loved one to a care home is never easy. Those with dementia feel safest with familiarity and most people, as they age, would of course prefer to stay in their own homes. However, for many there comes a time when that is just not an option any more, either because it is dangerous for them or they cannot get enough support to remain in their own environment.
It is doubly difficult choosing a care home in the time of Covid 19. We have all read the horror headlines about the toll that the virus has taken in UK nursing and residential homes. It is only natural to question whether it can be a safe time to entrust a relative to someone else’s care.
Perhaps the first thing to bear in mind is that (sadly) brutal lessons have already been learnt in the first wave of the pandemic, and care homes are now much more aware of how the virus can be transmitted from carer to resident, and among residents mixing, so in most places there are strict and well-documented protocols in place to stop the spread.
Care UK for example, which offers care homes across England and Scotland, explains on its website that new arrivals will be tested – ideally prior to admission – and then cared for in isolation for 14 days. They offer a ‘Fourteen Day Promise’ which ensures new residents do not feel isolated and includes support for daily video or phone calls with family, an enhanced in-room dining service, family involvement in care planning and a personalised lifestyle and activities programme agreed upon arrival. Visitors are only allowed in person in homes that are ‘outbreak free’, which means that there have been no cases for 28 days, and even then there are strict protocols over hygiene and distancing that go some way to keeping the elderly as safe as possible.
Four Seasons Health Care, another of the big providers in the UK, states ‘We are committed to providing a safe and homely place to live and during the Covid-19 pandemic have put extra measures and infection control protocols in place for everyone’s safety and wellbeing. Our homes are well equipped with good stocks of high quality personal protective equipment (PPE) and our team members are well trained and experienced in ensuring a clean and sterile environment at all times.’
Ultimately it must be stressed that you should investigate and assess your chosen care home carefully before you make a decision. It is likely that coronavirus will be with us for some time to come, and although care homes cannot promise to provide 100 per cent Covid-free surroundings, you will want to find the home that seems to best be dealing with the challenges that the pandemic poses. Check that they have adequate PPE supplies. Ask what Covid training staff have had. Find out how many, if any, cases they have already had at the home. Ask to see a copy of their Coronavirus safety/hygiene policy. All of these things will give you an idea of the competence and safety of the home, and help to make an already difficult decision slightly easier.