Care homes play a larger role in our lives than we think. In fact, 28.6 million UK adults (54%) have, or have had, a friend or family member live in a care home.
During the pandemic care homes were placed in the spotlight and, as a result, awareness and knowledge of what they are and how they operate has increased. Now, more than two thirds (67%) claim to know more about the industry than ever before.
With this increase in knowledge comes an increase in trust, with confidence in the safety of care homes almost doubling year-on-year (24% to 45%). Overall, more than a third (34%) agree that their impression of care homes is now more positive than before the pandemic.
However, according to new research released by the UK’s leading provider of specialist dementia care, Vida Healthcare, less than one third of people (32%) believe that care homes offer a sense of community for residents.
James Rycroft, Managing Director at Vida Healthcare, believes that the pandemic has provided an opportunity for the social care sector to speak out and educate the public on the new generation of outstanding care homes being developed. Referring to the research, he said: “According to the results of our research, almost half (47%) of UK adults consider a care home as a home for older people to spend the rest of their lives rather than just a place for care delivery. Despite this, we clearly have a fantastic opportunity to educate the public and prove that care homes are a home for many vulnerable people which offer social activities, specialist care, and unique facilities.”
The research found that the pandemic has led to well over half (56%) of respondents who have known or know someone in a care home becoming concerned for the mental health of their loved one due to separation during lockdowns. Yet care homes provide a social atmosphere, with residents and staff able to keep each other company, thus reducing feelings of loneliness and isolation. This is emphasised by 47% of the public agreeing that they would feel more comfortable if a loved one living with dementia lived in a care home with people on hand who can interact, support, and care for them.
Rycroft added: “Care homes across the UK understand the importance of providing a home for their residents, and at Vida we’re no exception. Not only do we look to train staff to better equip them to care for our residents who all live with a form of dementia, but we provide various social activities and facilities to keep our residents occupied and fulfilled. We’re currently in the process of building a third home, Vida Court, dubbed ‘the home of the future’ which includes a 12-seater cinema, florist, coffee shop, and landscaped gardens, amongst other things, to support social interactions and ensure our residents have a high quality of life.”
40% of those who responded to the research are in agreement with Vida Healthcare when it comes to the importance of recreational activities, believing that creative arts, entertainment, and outings to shops and hairdressers, can be as effective for long-term care of older adults, particularly those with dementia-related illnesses, as traditional methods such as medication.
Family days (61%), afternoon teas (61%), birthday celebrations (60%), hairdresser appointments (60%), and exercise classes (54%) are the social activities that Brits are most keen to see implemented in care homes. In addition, popular facilities including specialist staff training (57%), hairdressers (55%), coffee shops (51%), and gardens (48%), would also create a feeling of familiarity and homeliness within care homes for Brits.
Rycroft concluded: “Our research has shown that while the traditional perceptions of care homes as an undesirable place to live are changing, our sector still has a long way to go to prove that care is being revolutionised to make sure we meet the long term demands and needs of our modern population.
“We know that loneliness, a lack of specialist care, and poor facilities are all concerns of the public when it comes to care homes. We hope that by tackling this conversation head on and showcasing the new care homes being built, including Vida Court, we can prove that care homes are more than just a place for care delivery, but a home for people to spend the remainder of their lives.”