A leading expert has called for a greater focus to be put on asking older people who live in care homes what they would like to see during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Prof Corina Naughton, professor of clinical nursing in older person’s healthcare at the School of Nursing and Midwifery, University College Cork, and the South/SouthWest Hospital Group, said that while older people were often afraid amid the outbreak, “they are even more frightened of not seeing their families”.
In early March, Nursing Homes Ireland announced restrictions which meant that no non-essential visitors, children, or groups would be allowed to see their loved ones in nursing homes.
Restrictions have also meant that certain activities for residents have been halted in many facilitiescertain activities for residents have been halted.
The UCC professor pointed out that while a period of six months of lockdown might not be as significant for someone who has another 40 years of life expectancy, that the period was very significant for some older people, many of whom have not been able to see their families for months.
“If you have two years left of your life to live, then this is a quarter of your life,” said Prof Naughton.
“Older people need to have a voice on what they want, to have autonomy and to be asked what risks they want to take.” ,” she said.
Prof Naughton said that nursing homes need to be a place where people want to live.
“We have to strike a balance between a clinical setting and a home setting, where a person wants to live and thrive,” she said.
“W — we cannot turn care homes into sterile, clinical environments, devoid of human contact from families and friends, with people living in fear.” As Ireland enters into the fourth month of its response to the outbreak, Professor Naughton said that she believed that Ireland’s care homes have done “exceptionally well’ during the outbreak.
“All credit is due to the nurses, systems, and care-home managers who have delivered exceptional care,” she said.
Professor Naughton said she believes that an increased focus is also needed on the capacity and capability of the gerontological workforce here is also needed.
The Cork-based professor is involved in delivering a gerontological nursing programme at UCC. Twenty-three 23 people have graduated from the programme this year.
She highlighted how over 80% of people with Cocid-19 in care homes survive the virus, and said that survival is dependent on skilled nursing care and a dedicated workforce.
“It comes down to fundamental nursing care managing hydration, nutrition, mobilisation, and emotional resilience,” she said.
“Nurses with specific gerontological knowledge and skills are at the heart of nursing teams driving improvement in quality, but they are a very limited resource.
“We need much greater investment to develop a gerontological competent workforce across all care settings.
“As a society, we do not tolerate non-trained paediatric nurses to care for children or non-trained midwives to deliver babies.
“But for older adults, there is no such professional standard or competency required, yet they are the most heterogeneous and complex of any group.” Professor Naughton said.
The UCC professor said that as the country continues to deal with the outbreak, it also needs to put resources into identifying models of best practice from high-performing care homes that have had no Covid-19 outbreaks or very successfully managed an outbreak.
“We need to know what they are doing, and replicate it,” said Professor Naughton, adding the nursing homes “even if they’ve gone through this horrid time”, are the experts in this area.
“We need to celebrate the success and enormous hard work they have undertaken, and learn from them,” she said.
It comes as a new HSE report, ‘Overview of the Health System Response to Date Long-term Residential Healthcare Settings’, suggested that Covid-19 would continue to impact on nursing homes for the next six to 18 months.
“We have to prepare. This [Covid-19] is not gone away, and we have a small window while it is at the lowest ebb,” said Prof Naughton.