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Care homes – how to keep them safe post-COVID

Risk management series

Care homes have been in the media a great deal over the last year and a half. We have witnessed the COVID pandemic run ravage through them, impacting hundreds of thousands1 of families across the UK.

Relatives are cautious about visiting their loved ones, in case they are vulnerable because of their age or health – and this is understandable. The roll-out of the vaccine has eased that anxiety a little, but care homes must have the right policies in place to provide protection and reassurance.

Latest government guidelines for visiting care homes2

As you will know residents are now able to name up to five visitors who can come to see them regularly. There may be other advice provided by different care homes and indeed for different residents, in line with their bespoke needs ‒ but in general, at the time of writing, hugging is still discouraged, and outdoor visits managed wherever possible (which allows larger groups of up to five people at once).

The Quality Care Commission3 has warned that it may inspect any care home that imposes “unacceptable” blanket bans on visiting. So, when it comes to visiting care homes, some simple changes can be made to maximise the safety of all residents, staff and guests:

  • Set up pre-arranged care home visiting hours and create designated areas for visits – in open-air wherever possible such as under a gazebo or marquee.
  • Keep social distancing – two metres apart at all times.
  • Encourage window visits for ground floor residents who are less mobile, provide seating for families and loved ones to sit just outside their room.
  • Drive through visits can be organised in car parks for shorter, more frequent stop-offs.
  • Hold garden visits – these are weather reliant and impacted by the garden's location. If it's in a central area within the main structure of the building, these gatherings are not encouraged as they will increase traffic through the home itself.
  • Create visiting pods that can be located in any outdoor area and provide more protection from the elements. These do depend on budgets and space, and will need regular cleaning, so they will have an impact on staffing.
  • Carry out regular deep and surface-level cleans and keep as many doors and windows open as possible – while, of course, maintaining the safety and security of their residents.

Regular assessments of the rules and the management of them are key. Communicate the rules and all policies around visiting – to all visitors, residents, and staff through written, visual and verbal forms.

If well-managed and communicated sympathetically, the impact of the changes can feel less harsh. It is vital everyone understands they are for the wellbeing of the residents themselves. Ultimately, they exist to prevent further outbreaks and save lives.

Infection prevention and control has always been important in care settings, but now more so than ever before. Click here to download our infection control checklist to help make sure you stay on top of your health and safety obligations.

If you have any further queries, speak to Marsh Commercial's specialist team who will be happy to advise you how to proceed safely.