Care homes and COVID-19. The challenge of older people’s health during the coronavirus pandemic (CSIC, Spain)

Vicente Rodríguez Rodríguez (@vrrodriguez)  CCHS-CSIC

Carmen Pérez de Arenaza (@CarmenPdAE) CCHS-CSIC 

The Research Group on Aging (GIE-CSIC), together with researchers from several universities in Madrid, is undertaking a research project “Residences and COVID-19. The challenge of the health of the older people during the coronavirus pandemic”, funded by the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas de España, through its call AYUDAS CSICCOVID-19 (Medidas Urgentes Extraordinarias para hacer frente al Impacto Económico y Social de COVID-19 (Extraordinary Urgent Measures to face the Economic and Social Impact of COVID-19). This is an exhaustive investigation into the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic in residential and nursing care settings in Madrid, one of the areas with the highest mortality in care homes in Spain. 

In Spain, the impact of Covid-19 has been very pronounced in the last year, and care homes have been one of the most conflictive environments with the highest number of deaths. According to official data from the Spanish government, more than 20,000 people living in nursing homes reportedly died from the beginning of March until May 10. While the scale of the impact of the pandemic on people living in care homes is clear, particularly in terms of mortality, it is very important to analyse this impact in detail, particularly the far-reaching effects of certain political decisions or the consequences of this situation for families and workers. 

To address this, our CSIC research aims to analyse the impact of the pandemic using mixed methods. First of all, we will use a questionnaire to gather quantitative data on the situation of care home residents, their personal feelings about the pandemic, their fears and concerns, their ability to cope, their social relationships and loneliness, the activities carried out in the care homes, as well as their assessment of them in various aspects. The questionnaire also explores aspects of their health, their quality of life and their outlook on ageism. Secondly, there will be a qualitative part, with interviews with residents and their relatives and with various agents involved in the care home environment, such as directors and managers, workers, and regional administration officials. The triangulation of these research approaches will help capture both detail and complexity. 

So far we have published various articles, most of them the result of exhaustive reviews of the literature against the backdrop of various topics. The Decade of Healthy Ageing 2020-2030 declared by the WHO ( ) and how this could affect the Spanish care home environment, the impact of the health crisis due to Covid-19 on care home workers ( ), the effects of the pandemic on older people from a gender perspective in care home environments ( ) or an approach through various international examples to the issue of visits in nursing homes ( ). 

In short, the situation of care homes during the pandemic has, among other facts, raised awareness of their significance for the care system, and the consequences of what has happened in them open the door to debate and analysis of the model of residential care to prevent subsequent health crises and to ensure the highest quality of life for people who live in these settings.

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