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COVID-19, closeness, and care: The changing provision of direct care for older people in residential and home care settings

Project status
Eleanor Johnson
Host institution
University of Bristol
Team members
Eleanor Johnson, Alisa Cameron
Project Summary


Research suggests that older people are more likely to be affected by COVID-19 than other age groups. Because of this, the places in which older people receive care – residential care homes for older people and private homes – have been identified as settings where extra measures are needed to prevent the virus from spreading between people. These measures have included wearing personal protective equipment (PPE), such as masks, visors and gloves, and physical distancing, which involves keeping a distance of two metres between people where possible.

Initial research suggests that during the pandemic, care workers have felt stressed, vulnerable, and overworked, anxious about infection, and faced challenges in keeping older people safe. Some care workers have also said that they have not had access to the right protective equipment and that using masks can have negative outcomes, such as damaging their relationships with older people.


This project is exploring:

  1. How the COVID-19 pandemic altered care workers’ provision of direct care for older people living in residential homes and in private homes
  2. How care workers perceive and navigate COVID-related policy measures and guidelines in their everyday practices and interactions with older people
  3. How care workers negotiate the close and intimate aspects of their work within a context where distancing and infection control are central to ‘good care’
  4. How the spatial and material resources (e.g., PPE) used by care workers in a pandemic impact upon caregiving relationships and upon care workers’ ability to find meaning and value in their labour
  5. How to improve the provision of care for both care workers and older people and, in particular, what lessons can be learnt for future infection outbreaks.


The project involves interviews with 25 care workers working in care homes for older people in England, and 25 care workers working for home care agencies in England, to find out how the pandemic has changed their work.

Project website


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COVID-19, closeness, and care: The changing provision of direct care for older people in residential and home care settings