Keeping Families connected in East Sussex

October 21, 2020

During the COVID-19 pandemic there have been considerable challenges in East Sussex care homes, including how to keep families in touch with their relatives.

Healthwatch East Sussex and Care for the Carers spoke to families and friends of residents in care homes during August, as part of a Sussex wide project gathering the experiences of family carers during the pandemic. A report reflecting the views of 64 family members is released today.

The full report can be viewed here and provides six recommendations for both care home providers and families to consider.

An online Webinar will take place on Tuesday 10th November from 5 – 7 pm to continue exploration of these issue.

Key findings

Whilst family members/friends recognised the unprecedented challenges care homes have faced as a result of COVID-19, their experiences during the pandemic significantly varied across care homes, with family members’ and friends’ experiences ranging from poor to excellent.

Positive experiences focused on clear and proactive communication with family members/friends, and timely and person-centred decision making.

We know lots of care homes have gone that extra mile to keep families connected during the pandemic.

 “The home have been very good in accommodating our requests for Zoom calls and for arranging visits whilst following the recommendations of the Government but, of course, nothing can compare to being able to hug one’s very elderly, rather confused and upset mother.”

A significant challenge for families was and continues to be around visiting and staying connected with their relative in a care home.

“We understand that the home needs to protect our relatives, but it still didn’t stop the heartbreak for me.”

Some family members/friends described care homes failing to communicate with them effectively during the pandemic and highlighted the significant difficulties they had experienced in trying to obtain information or be supported in having contact with their relatives or friends in the care home.

“My heart goes out to the care home staff because they care, and they can see how hard it is for residents and relatives.”

“Initially when lockdown was introduced, I was very upset thinking that I may never see my mother again but as time went on, I am ok in the knowledge that she is being extremely well cared for and she is safe.”

Jo Egan, Director of Services, Care for the Carers added:

“We were pleased to work with Healthwatch East Sussex to amplify the voices of families and friends who have loved ones living in care homes, an often hidden group. We heard some powerful examples of both excellent and poor practice taking place. During these unprecedented times it is essential that family members and friends are seen as equal partners in the care and support of each care home resident. I hope that the report’s recommendations influence significant improvements in practice where they are needed as the pandemic progresses.”

Part of a wider project, the next phase includes an online webinar on:

Tuesday 10th November from 5 pm – 7 pm

“Staying connected during the Coronavirus crisis: Webinar for Families and Friends of Care Home Residents”

Hosted by Healthwatch in Sussex, families and residents will have the opportunity to share their views and have their voice heard. Health and Care professionals will be in attendance to answer the many questions, we are sure, families will want to ask.

On behalf of Healthwatch in East Sussex, Elizabeth Mackie, Project Lead, added

This continues to be a very difficult time for relatives and friends of those receiving care. Everyone spoken with wanted their relatives and friends to be safe and well cared for during this pandemic and to help prevent risk of infection to them and others, including the care home staff. However, staying away doesn’t have to mean losing contact…this event we hope will support families to stay connected throughout the coming months.”

Join us and share your views and experiences

Register for our event here