Charity reports surge in care home workers needing urgent mental health support

Care home staff are increasingly struggling with mental health problems and feeling burnt out, anxious and guilty as they work through the coronavirus pandemic, a charity has warned.

Calls to the Laura Hyde Foundation (LHF), describing the “horrendous traumas they have witnessed in their day-to-day work”, have risen over the past three months.

Requests for help from care home workers rocketed by 114% in May – with 283 requests for help compared to an average of 132 in February, March and April.

In particular, there has been a surge in “acute requests” – where someone needs immediate mental health support due to fear for their own wellbeing or life, or that of somebody else.

These requests rose 152% in May, with 212 acute requests received compared to 84 on average for the previous three months.

Over the same period, they have also seen a 144% rise in requests for help from social care workers.

The LHF says it is the only UK charity dedicated to supporting the mental health of people working in emergency and medical services.

It currently offers a three-tiered support service to anyone who has an NHS email address, but wants to extend this to the social care sector after becoming increasingly concerned about the numbers seeking help.

More than 14,000 people have died in care homes in England and Wales with coronavirus since the outbreak began.

One care home worker contacted the charity feeling “they cannot cope with the guilt they are holding having seen people they care for fall ill or even die based on difficult decisions being made or lack of resources available”.

Another is self-isolating from their family, feels alone and scared and “doesn’t know what they will do to themselves”.

The charity said it is clear that care workers without NHS affiliations “have little or no access to mental health support”.

Without urgent help, they risk becoming the “forgotten victims” of the pandemic, it added.

Liam Barnes, LHF chairman, said: “In the past three months we’ve been growing increasingly concerned about the number of calls and enquiries we have received from those working in the care home sector.

“It has become clear many simply don’t have the same options available to them as doctors, nurses and other emergency service workers.

“And, given the trauma and tragedy many have been exposed to in recent weeks, ensuring they have support is absolutely vital.

“They have asked us to step up in their time of need because no-one else is there to help. And we are ready to do that.”

The LHF is piloting its support services to 92 care homes with 3,000 staff across one local authority area, with the hope of rolling it out more widely if successful.

They are also in talks to try and extend a phone line service, currently offered to NHS workers, to care home staff.

One carer said: “The last three months have been very hard.

“In the home I work in we’ve lost many residents – some of whom I have cared for for many years.

“It has had a terrible toll on my mental health but when I’ve asked for help it hasn’t been there.

“And I haven’t been able to take time off to cope because the home is so busy.”

The palliative care charity Marie Curie has expanded its support line for anyone needing practical and emotional support during the crisis.

Simon Jones, director of policy and public affairs, said: “As the UK’s largest charitable provider of palliative care, we are acutely aware of the unprecedented stresses care home staff have had to face with the tragic and untimely loss of so many elderly people in their care.

“There are many stories of how caring and dedicated care home staff have been, including living in the homes themselves through the worst of the pandemic. However, care homes and their staff are just not equipped to manage death on this scale.

“We too fear that our frontline staff, exhausted both physically and emotionally from the initial Covid-19 outbreak, will potentially have to care for a second wave of patients and support another wave of bereaved families who may well, again, feel that their loved one has died too soon.”

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2020, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Pixabay.