‘They don’t have time to talk’: Residents feel impact of caregiver crisis | Social Protection

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“There is no joy in the air,” said Anne Thompson, describing the impact of the national care worker crisis on her husband’s retirement home in Harrogate. “There is no sense of companionship.”

On a recent visit to see Michael, 80, who ran a steel fabrication business and loved mountaineering and classical music, she found him miserable with a drooping head.

He was quickly revived with a hug, but the overwhelmed staff have little time for such emotional care, said Anne, who said the situation had brought her to “extremes of anger, bitterness and despair “.

“Before the pandemic, staff had time,” she said. “Now they are doing their best, but it’s not enough anymore. They don’t have time to talk to the residents, to hug them, to communicate with them. Support is fragmented.

“A lot of agency staff are used [because rising Covid infections in the community means more permanent staff isolating]. The sense of community they used to have is all but gone.

Vida Hall, the nursing home where Michael has lived for more than six years, is far from the worst in the country. In fact, the latest Care Quality Commission (CQC) report classifies it as ‘outstanding’, as perhaps it should for a facility that costs £1,600 a week.

In homes recently inspected by the CQC which it deemed “insufficient”, residents were left in danger of suffocation, uncleaned and locked in their bedrooms. But while Anne says staff look after her husband’s physical needs, even in such a well-funded environment, they have to move on after brief interactions.

In the 28 days from mid-June to mid-July, she said he only left his room four times. Michael, her companion of more than 50 years, with whom she used to climb in the Bavarian Alps and the Italian Dolomites, has lost the habit of walking and, she says, is now “afraid to walk”.

“The staff can’t help him because they don’t have time,” she says. “They don’t have enough staff.”

James Rycroft, chief executive of Vida Healthcare, said the company was “saddened to hear Anne’s comments and we are working closely with her to ensure that the care we provide to Michael helps him stay happy and healthy.”

He said the company had raised wages by 30%, had hired 120 new staff since January – with more to join soon – and was supporting staff to give residents “the physical and emotional care they need”.

“We also regularly review our staffing ratios for each resident to enable us to go above and beyond their minimum care requirements and successfully meet their unique needs,” he said.

At another care home in West Yorkshire, a girl, who asked not to be named, described how her 93-year-old mother’s teeth were not being cleaned due to staffing issues. Some fall out and her false teeth are gone.

The door to her bedroom overlooking the garden is locked, which exacerbates her claustrophobia, and on several occasions she has lost her emergency alarm worn around her wrist or neck.

“Since Covid, I feel like there has been a lack of care and a lack of attention to detail,” she said. “They may be battle-weary, exhausted and exhausted. I can sympathize with that. But my mom has a history of falling and if she doesn’t have her call button… As a family you want to know that wherever you put your loved one is safe.

Neil Russell, who runs three neurological care homes in Peterborough and Milton Keynes, is short of 30 staff – a problem that started with Brexit, when many EU workers left because they felt ‘unwanted’.

“The staffing problem started with Brexit and it got worse with the pandemic,” he said. “It just tired people out, it wore them out.”

A Covid outbreak in June led to 20 staff being placed in home isolation for a week. “There’s no wiggle room and that puts pressure on existing staff,” Russell said. “They end up working too many shifts.”

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