Nursing homes will go all out to prevent visiting bans during the second coronavirus wave
Dutch nursing homes say they want to avoid closing their doors to visitors during the second coronavirus wave if there is an infection among residents. At the same time, they say they can’t guarantee there will be no more visiting bans. For many homes, it is hard to find a balance between maintaining residents’ well-being on the one hand and preventing infection on the other. As a result, there is great uncertainty about the extent to which the new coronavirus wave will spread in nursing homes, and the impact it will have on residents, relatives and staff. These are the findings of recent research by Maastricht University (UM) and the Radboud university medical center in Nijmegen.
Since visiting restrictions were relaxed last June, 76 nursing homes in the Netherlands have been monitored in a study by the Living Lab in Ageing & Long-Term Care, run by UM and Radboud university medical center. The latest assessment looked at what daily life in nursing homes is like now and the extent to which nursing homes think they are prepared for the new coronavirus wave. The vast majority of homes say they are striving for the least restrictive measures possible in the event of an infection among residents, although it is a challenge to find the delicate balance between maintaining residents’ well-being and preventing infection. Nevertheless, most homes now say they are well prepared for a second wave, with local protocols in place and sufficient protective equipment such as face masks available. However, testing capacity is still an issue. Waiting times are often too long, which means that staff are off work for an unnecessary length of time. This in turn has a negative effect on their colleagues’ perceived workload. Many nursing homes are working hard to ensure testing capacity is adequate.
Earlier assessments during the monitoring study showed that lifting the visiting ban led directly to positive effects for residents. In the last measurement, at the beginning of October, most of the nursing homes still reported positive effects on well-being. The results also show that regular activities in most homes have been restarted as far as possible, and in most locations residents are now able to participate. However, there is a lack of volunteer support, in particular because volunteers themselves are opting to stay away. An estimated one family member in five is also visiting less often than they did before visiting restrictions were first introduced. Furthermore, the perceived staff workload has not decreased in most nursing homes since the first coronavirus wave and the absenteeism rate is high. This seems to be partly related to the fear of becoming infected or infecting others. While previous measurements found no infections in the monitored nursing homes, in early October, a quarter of the homes reported infections.