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Protecting Older People Living in Care Homes from COVID-19

Older people living in care homes often have complex health and care needs and are at high risk of poor health outcomes and mortality, especially if they contract coronavirus. To protect older people from coronavirus, care homes use interventions such as social distancing and isolation, but these measures have been reported as challenging.

Our research explores the challenges experienced by care homes endeavouring to implement these interventions whilst mitigating any negative consequences they may have.


To understand the real-life experiences of social distancing and isolation measures for older people living in care homes from the perspective of multiple stakeholders and to develop a toolkit of evidence-informed guidance and resources for care homes for health and care delivery now and for future outbreaks.


See published protocol: Fitzpatrick, J.M., Rafferty, A. M., Hussein, S., Ezhova, I., Palmer, S., Adams, R., Rees, L., Brearley, S., Sims, S., & Harris, R. (2021). Protecting older people living in care homes from COVID-19: a protocol for a mixed-methods study to understand the challenges and solutions to implementing social distancing and isolation. BMJ Open, 11(8), [e050706].

Summary of Findings

Our review showed limited research and the limited nature of policy documentation on social distancing and isolation measures. Interviews revealed that social distancing and isolation measures were difficult, and sometimes impossible, for staff to implement. These measures made care homes feel less homely and inhibited touch e.g., hugs. Residents and families valued the work of care homes to keep residents safe and the use of technology for keeping connected. Social distancing, isolation and related restrictions negatively affected residents’ physical, psychological, social, and cognitive well-being. There were feelings of powerlessness for families whose loved ones had moved into the care home during the pandemic. It was challenging for care homes to capture frequent updates in policy and guidance. Senior health and care leaders shared that the care home sector felt isolated from the National Health Service, communication from Government to the care home sector was described as chaotic, and trauma was inflicted on care home staff, residents, families, and friends. The findings have been used to design guidance in the form of a toolkit to help care homes implement social distancing and isolation measures both now and for any future outbreaks.

This project was funded by the National Institute for Health Research Health and Social Care Delivery Research Programme (Project number: 132541) COVID-19 Recovery and Learning Programme. The views and opinions expressed therein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Institute for Health Research Health Services and Delivery Research Programme or the Department of Health and Social Care.

Our Partners

 London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

Sears Healthcare Ltd

Sears Healthcare Limited