Guest Blog written by Fawn Harrad, ENRICH Facilitator, NIHR West Midlands on Thursday November 16, 2017
As a nation, we are all living longer lives. It is estimated that over one third of all babies born today will live to see their hundredth birthday. However, despite all of the medical and technological advances made in recent years, the number of people living with long term conditions in later life is on the rise.
The care home sector is the main long term provider of care in England. They provide care for people who are often frail, living with multiple long term conditions and require support with day-to-day living. What is more, the number of people living with dementia is at a record high, and is set to increase dramatically over the next 30years.
Although there is an increasing demand for the specialist care that care homes provide, there is little research into the best way to care for this vulnerable group of residents. More research is needed in all fields of health and social care; from looking for new ways to prevent and cure dementia and other long term conditions, to the best way to support residents, relatives and staff within the care home.
In a busy care home environment, care home managers and staff may find themselves asking ‘What’s in it for us?’. In this blog post, we discuss some of the many ways that the West Midlands CRN ENRICH Team have found taking part in care home research can benefit care homes.
Often researchers are interested in either collecting the experiences of people living in care homes, or exploring interventions that aim at improving residents’ quality of life. Taking part in research may provide residents with the opportunity to share their experience of receiving care and voice their opinions on different topics. Therefore research can encourage residents to take control over their health and care and contribute in way that will benefit the next generation of care home residents.
Some research will involve people from outside of the home coming in to deliver an intervention, this could be in the form of a group exercise programme, activity or a new technology. Therefore taking part in research can provide residents with additional stimulation and new experiences.
It is important to acknowledge that the staff that work within a care homes are the experts within their area. They are the ones that know the daily routines of their home and every staff team is made up of a number of people with a wealth and variety of skills and experiences. Therefore the voice of care staff is crucial in research to ensure that funding is used appropriately and that money spent on carrying out research projects are useful in practice within a care home setting.
Often researchers will ask staff to share their experiences of working within a care home, including discussions around both good practices and the challenges that care staff face. Taking part in research could also provide staff with an opportunity to learn from one another, develop new skills and attend additional training and support which may be able to be used as a part of the nursing revalidation process.
Taking part in research can initiate conversations amongst the staff team and the wider organisation about what works well in the home and what could be improved. In turn, this can help to encourage a positive and open atmosphere within the care home that values continuous improvement Providing residents and staff to be actively involved in projects that aim to shape the future of care in the care home sector can lead to greater job satisfaction and, as a result, improve staff retention levels.
Building links with other NHS services and with research teams can lead to better partnership working across services and allow staff from different specialities to develop a better understanding of each other's roles. What is more, being actively involved in research demonstrates that a care home is committed to improving the way in which they provide care, to both their residents, relatives, the public and other regulatory bodies.
It is clear that taking part in research can have benefits for individual residents, for staff teams and more widely for the whole care home or organisation. In video below you can hear directly from local care homes that are part of the ENRICH project:
If you work within a care home environment and would like to learn more about being involved in research please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Alternatively, the contact details of your local ENRICH team. Contact details can be found at: http://enrich.nihr.ac.uk/offices