A NEW study has revealed that care home workers felt “helpless” and that the lives of dementia patients suffered during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The research, by the University of Bradford, laid bare the situation in care homes during the pandemic, and found care was inhibited by a “lack of clear guidance” from Government.

Dr Andrea Capstick, Associate Professor in the Faculty of Health Studies at the University of Bradford, headed up the study, along with team members Dr Ana Barbosa, Dr Giorgia Previdoli and Clare Mason.

The headline findings of the research were: fear, confusion and a lack of guidance; detrimental impact on quality of life and relationships; staff feeling unseen or under-valued by society; and that staff found creative solutions amidst uncertainty and finding the positives in a challenging environment.

It found that “fear, uncertainty and a lack of clear guidelines were the most vivid memories of the early weeks of the pandemic and the first lockdown” and moving forward frequently changing advice made making the right decisions on care difficult.

It also found that “staff had to deal with unprecedented circumstances whilst also coping with their own fear and grief and, increasingly, with feelings of guilt and helplessness”.

Even in homes where there were not Covid outbreaks, implementing social isolation brought up “ethical dilemmas” around the human rights of patients.

One participant in the study said: “We felt just very overwhelmed that there was no clear direction.

“There was a lot of questions being raised by family members that staff didn’t have answers for. Questions were also being raised by staff around their safety and wellbeing that we didn’t have answers for.

The study was started after many in the care sector felt the issue of Covid and dementia in care homes was not acknowledged by Government at the start of the pandemic, with more focus on hospitals.

Dr Andrea Capstick, the study’s lead author, said: “We invited participants to share their experiences of caring for people living with dementia during the Covid-19 pandemic through interviews, discussion groups or written accounts.

“It is now clear that when the coronavirus pandemic hit in March 2020, there was an unprecedented impact on care homes for people living with dementia.

“Care homes were being ‘left to fend for themselves against coronavirus’. During the first wave around half of all coronavirus–related deaths in England are believed to have been care home residents, 75 per cent of them died in the care home where they had been living.

“Care home staff have experienced heightened stress and burnout and their mental health suffered during the pandemic.

“People with dementia often do not retain information and are not able to understand the reasons for measures such as social distancing, removal of family visits and Covid testing.

“They may repeatedly ask for such measures to be explained or become upset because they think relatives don’t want to see them anymore.

“These measures were, then, extremely difficult to implement and often had a profoundly negative effect on the well-being of the people with dementia concerned.”