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Care home staff and residents need support to manage their grief during Covid-19

19 May 2020

Care home providers need to consider how they can provide support for their staff and residents during the Covid-19 pandemic, as they are likely to be experiencing significant concern and potentially grieving for residents who have died.

Covid-19 is causing thousands of deaths in UK care homes, so the British Psychological Society has launched some new guidance to help staff and residents cope with this particularly frightening time.

Professor Nichola Rooney, chair of the BPS’s Covid-19 bereavement task force, said:

“We have all seen distressing news reports and figures about the experience of our care homes during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Staff are doing all that they can to protect and comfort residents at an extremely distressing time, and it’s vital that managers give them the support that they need to provide this and to cope with their own grief and concerns.

I hope that this guidance is useful for care home staff, residents and their friends and family in navigating what is an unprecedented and often harrowing time.”

While staff working in a care home may have experienced residents dying before, the guidance says that this does not make each death any easier to cope with, and that staff often develop close relationships with people that they care for.

It suggests that the contagious nature of Covid-19, requiring staff to wear personal protective equipment when dealing with residents, means that some may feel they are unable to provide the comfort to people that they would want.

Care home managers can help staff by making sure that they are given regular opportunities to talk about how they’re feeling, and accommodate regular and frequent breaks.

They can consider ways that staff can collectively remember residents who have died, and celebrate their lives.

Care home residents can often face a range of challenges depending on possible medical conditions, and even those in later stages of dementia will be affected by changes in the care home’s day-to-day life.

Staff need to make sure that they maintain communication with residents, even when it feels like this is always to bring sad news. They should explain why changes, such as staff having to wear PPE, are important.

The guidance should be read alongside ‘Supporting yourself and others: coping with death and grief during the Covid-19 pandemic’.

Both documents were produced by the BPS Covid-19 bereavement task force.

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