COVID-19 and the impact on carers

Fear of a “mental health crisis across the health and social care sector” in the UK has been expressed by Dr Talya Greene, the lead author of a Frontline COVID study report recently published in the European Journal of Psychotraumatology. This report, based on research conducted by University College London and the University of Haifa, Israel, is based on 1,194 health and social care workers from hospitals, nursing or care homes and other community settings across the UK in the period since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report’s headline statistics include that:

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Time to prioritise the mental health of our care workers?

As the pandemic continues, more statistics are coming to light in respect of the wider impact COVID-19 has had, not least on the mental health of frontline care workers. A survey undertaken by the trade union GMB found that 75% of care workers said that their work during this pandemic has led to their mental health being negatively affected. The survey found that many felt their mental health had declined during the second wave of the pandemic, with whose who were only entitled to statutory sick pay reporting lower mental health scores. 

The Worldwide Health Organisation (WHO) Regional Office for Europe recently produced a short film with healthcare workers discussing the impact the pandemic has had on their mental health, as well as the challenges they have faced, whilst providing care throughout for their patients. The main mental health consequences raised were loneliness, elevated stress levels or anxiety, insomnia and depression. There is no doubt that those providing frontline care throughout, have borne the brunt of the pandemic. Care workers have continued to provide care and support to their patients and the wider public throughout the pandemic, bravely facing the challenges this has thrown at them. 

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Scottish care homes – COVID-19 and human rights

On 26 September 2020, the Herald newspaper reported that “moving elderly from Scots hospitals to homes during coronavirus pandemic may have been illegal.” The article focuses on the discharge from hospitals to care homes of “hundreds” of adults lacking in full legal capacity (ability to make relevant decisions). Edinburgh Napier University’s Centre for Mental Health and Capacity Law has expressed concern that since the start of the COVID-19 (C-19) pandemic, movement from hospitals to care homes of adults without capacity may have taken place without due legal process and in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). ECHR rights said to be engaged include the right to personal liberty and security and the right to respect for private and family life. The CRPD aspect concerns equal rights for people with disabilities. Particular issues arising include the extent to which steps were taken to ascertain whether particular adults were capable of expressing a wish and whether family members and any legal guardian were consulted before people were moved.    

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Highlighting issues regarding sex and dementia

The Guardian has today highlighted the tricky issues regarding dementia patients and sex.

With the onset of dementia, residents of care homes are likely to lose legal capacity and with that the ability to consent to sexual activity. However the onset of old age and dementia does not mean the desire for sexual activity and physical relationships disappears. It is also recognised that positive physical relationships are beneficial to an elderly person’s mental health and well-being.

In addition, this is of course a delicate subject for the families of residents to deal with. The article in the Guardian today highlights a case study of an elderly couple who had moved into a care home together. The couple’s adult children became disturbed by their physical relationship and a decision was made for them to live on separate floors within the home. This resulted in a lot of upset for the couple with them displaying more challenging behaviours.

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NHS pays firms £181m to care for patients with serious mental illnesses

Due to a severe shortage of NHS mental health beds in England, the NHS has been left with no option but to pay private institutions such as the Priory increased sums to provide residential rehabilitation each year.

“The NHS is paying private firms an “eye-watering” £181m a year to look after people with serious mental health problems in units often hundreds of miles from their homes.” – The Guardian.

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