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Researcher’s poetic tribute to care home staff as new study calls for more resources 

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Two people holding hands

New national care home radio station among recommendations 

The ‘national clap’ for NHS workers during the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic quite rightly sought to recognise the vast contribution made by hospital workers up and down the country but the same cannot be said for care home staff. 

That’s according to Dr Andrea Capstick, Associate Professor  in Dementia Studies at the University of Bradford. 

As restrictions on visiting care home residents indoors are lifted (from Monday March 8), Dr Capstick and her colleagues, Dr Ana Barbosa, Dr Giorgia Previdoli and Clare Mason, are preparing to publish new research which has examined the toll the pandemic and its successive lockdowns has taken on staff, residents and their families. 

Dr Capstick has previously called for greater recognition of care home staff, in her emotive blog, Let’s Hear It For Care Home Staff, in which she penned a moving poem highlighting their plight. 

The research was made possible by 20 practitioners, including our Advanced Dementia Studies Master’s degree students, whose insight proved invaluable. Recommendations are set to include the creation of a dedicated radio station for care homes, which they argue would benefit both staff and residents, together with a ‘toolkit’ to help mitigate the effects of any future pandemic. 

Dr Capstick, who has taught at the University for 26 years, said: “We launched the campaign to get the same kind of recognition for care home staff that NHS staff have had. Not to take anything away from NHS staff but just to recognise that there’s a lot of work being done in care homes behind the scenes, which is less visible and therefore gets less attention. 

“Some of the people we talked to said they felt left out when they were not explicitly mentioned in events like the national clap. 

“Our research, which was made possible by our MSc students, many of whom already work in care homes  either providing direct care or in  managerial roles. Because it was impossible to get into care homes during the lockdown, these students provided a unique and valuable opportunity for understanding that experience, both in terms of what it was like for them as practitioners but also the people with dementia who they were caring for and to some extent their families.” 

The research was funded by the University of Bradford’s Covid response and recovery scheme. It included firsthand accounts of care home staff, blogs and pictures, collected from July to November 2020. 

Dr Capstick added: “We are in the process of writing up the findings. We hope to get further funding to work with practitioners to develop resources for coronavirus recovery or if similar things happen in future. 

“One idea is to set up a dedicated radio station for care homes, which would benefit staff, residents and their families, particularly when they are unable to visit. We would also like to develop a toolkit, which would look at things like creative activities for those unable to leave their rooms, sourcing PPE and the use of technology, which is not the quick fix many people believe it to be for people with dementia.” 

Dr Capstick’s poem  

After the clap 

This is for the 64-hour week you worked 

And the last words you listened to 

For the hands you held 

And the hugs you put before your own safety 

  

This is for the silence after the clap 

In which you were not mentioned 

For the MBEs you won’t receive 

And the pay cuts (in real terms) that you will 

This is for all of you 

At the front of the front line 

Doing the best you can every day 

In a world that no longer has a rule book 

  

This is for the bedside 

At the border between life and death 

Where you sit, keeping watch 

When no-one else is looking 

And the world turns away 

  

Thank you. 

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