Enabling research in care homes

Published on 11 Oct 2021

Aims and audience

The workshop aimed to provide a space to share experiences and explore issues about care home research. Co-hosted with ENRICH Scotland, it was attended by colleagues from universities, NHS, Scottish Government and Care Inspectorate, as well as those from the third and statutory sectors. The workshop included a blend of presentations, small group conversations and wider group discussions. 

Presentation 1: ENRICH Scotland

Maria Drummond, Senior Clinical Studies Officer with ENRICH Scotland, opened the workshop by introducing the concept of research, highlighting what we know about the opportunities and challenges of research in care homes before discussing care homes and Covid-19. Maria then explained the aims and activities of ENRICH, including research partners and current supported studies. 

Watch the video.

Challenges and opportunities

Participants worked together in small groups to reflect on both the benefits and barriers to care home research from their varied perspectives and experiences. A range of challenges and opportunities surfaced.  

Challenges 

  • Physical access to care homes to undertake interviews has been a practical challenge
  • Convincing university research ethic boards that it’s safe to access care homes
  • Having enough human resource in the care home to support a research project
  • High turnover of care staff and burnout can cause complexities
  • Lack of highlighting good work in care homes
  • Staff feel underpaid and undervalued 
  • The care homes who wish to be involved in research are not always the homes who may be struggling / would benefit most 
  • Extremely high demands on care homes currently - increased level of scrutiny
  • Poor understanding of dedication and professionalism within homes
  • It can be difficult to prove the worth of research in advance when we don't know what the findings will be or even if people will participate

Opportunities

  • Care home managers are receptive and want to be involved with research
  • Having a professional / academic background as a care home manager is conducive to research taking place in the care home
  • Research taking place in care home helps educate the carer workforce which is beneficial
  • Involvement of the whole care home team when deciding whether to part with a research study is important
  • Better practice / current practice becoming more effective and efficient
  • Need to look for opportunities to share positive stories through the press and social media
  • Need to promote the dedication, and hard work, that has been happening across care services - many services have done very well in the past 18 months - (and before this!) 
  • Resourcing of staff needs to be a collective approach, promoting the profession – it's not all about being underpaid and undervalued

Presentation 2: Conducting research in care homes - addressing practicalities and balancing perspectives

The second presentation was given by Dr Sarah Swift (University of Stirling) who shared her insights from a rapid research project conducted in 2020 about the impact of visiting restrictions on family members of care home residents during Covid-19. Sarah unpacked the challenges and practicalities of the study, as well as how to approach integrating different perspectives of those involved in the research. 

Watch the video.

Research questions

Participants discussed possible research questions in small groups. The need for research topics that are small and meaningful to care home staff and residents was highlighted, as well as the importance of demystifying research for care home staff. A need to understand hospital admissions and care home admissions pathways, and whether these have been influenced by changes in community care, for example, changes to how GPs practice was another area of interest. Palliative and end of life care were also suggested as areas for more research focus. 

Other research questions participants were interested in included: 

  • Prevention and management of stress and distress in residents with dementia in care homes, understanding the experience of this for residents and staffHealth and wellbeing outcomes after being a pilot and passenger in a trishaw bike
  • Measuring the impact of intergenerational practice
  • Research influencing the health and social care standards
  • Meal time experiences 
  • Person-centred and inclusive

A recurring theme throughout the workshop was the importance of research being person-centred and of involving residents. Participants felt it was important that research benefits both residents and care workers with their opinions being heard. Clear aims of improving the life of care home residents and the importance of feeding back research findings to care homes involved were also seen as vital. 

Feedback and next steps

Feedback rated the workshop as ‘excellent’ and said that it was ‘very inclusive and welcoming’. Participants ‘liked the idea of getting different people to present sections’ and that ‘small group sections worked really well’. ‘Hearing the experiences of people in the sector from different backgrounds and their common goals’ was particularly welcome. 

Following the workshop, Iriss and ENRICH Scotland are working together to develop an evidence resource to support research in care homes. This will be in partnership with those working in care homes, residents, families, researchers and other key stakeholders. 

For any questions or further information please contact: ellen.daly@iriss.org.uk