Last week, a group from PenCLAHRC travelled to London for a cross-CLAHRC care homes research event (#CLAHRCCare17) organised by Claire Goodman and team from NIHR CLAHRC East of England. The meeting aimed to provide an overview of CLAHRC supported care home research and how it has made a difference to the care of people living and dying in care homes, to consider what does and does not work when planning and undertaking care home research and to work together to build a national collaboration for future work in this area.

It was an action packed day of presentations and discussions, highlighting ongoing work and sharing useful resources.

These included:

The NIHR Methods Review – an evidence-based guide, written with the primary aim of helping those new to the field of researching in care homes to learn from the experience of others in undertaking studies in these complex settings.

NCHRD Forum mailing list – the National Care Home Research and Development Forum (NCHRDF) was established in 2003 to provide a platform for researchers and practitioners to network, share information and ideas arising from their work.

The ENRICH network – A toolkit for care home research

The ENRICH blog which provides opportunity to initiate academic discourse on methodological challenges

EMRAN – the East Midlands Research into Ageing Network – a network for researchers, professionals and members of the public from the East Midlands to discuss collaborative research with like-minded individuals and teams.  The objective of the network is to facilitate collaborative applied research in to ageing and older people across the East Midlands.

My Home Life a UK-wide initiative that promotes quality of life and delivers positive change in care homes for older people.

We shared our experiences of co-production in care home research from projects on improving access to nature (My Nature), mealtime interventions and Skype on Wheels.

The room was alive with energy and enthusiasm throughout the day and provided many opportunities for stimulating discussion, sharing of experience and generation of ideas.  By the end of the day it was clear that building a care home research community across CLAHRCs that provides space for the sharing of skills, expertise and ideas would bring many benefits.

As we made our way home amongst the Christmas lights of London, we reflected on what we would take away from the event…

 “The Cross-CLAHRC Care Home Research Event was an opportunity to get an overview of the current trends and challenges in care home research, as well as learn more about the resources available to researchers, such as the ENRICH toolkit and the MyHomeLife project. The morning sessions offered various perspectives from experts in the field on topics including big data, stakeholder engagement, PPI, and priority setting. After lunch, we split into parallel discussion groups. Our group considered questions from the perspective of living and working in care homes. We discussed the need for greater communication between CLAHRCs and the potential to develop a research database, as well as the need to improve research methodology in care homes and design more innovative approaches to enhancing care provision.  Overall, the day provided a great opportunity to share ideas and experiences of working in the sector, and consider how to work more collaboratively in the future.Ross Watkins, PenCLAHRC PhD student.

A fascinating day at the CLAHRC care homes event. Sitting on the other side of the fence, I wanted to speak out all day long!  Really interesting ideas and I would love to be a part of anything going forward from the “My Nature” work we have been a part of.’ Ann Gray, Owner Coombe House, Liskeard.

Discussions highlighted a few key issues for me – a need to focus attention on implementing best practice that can lead to a change in the way care is delivered in care homes. However, this will be challenging as the care home sector is so varied. As researchers, we need to think about different ways to disseminate best practice and research findings and how to evaluate and support changing practice at national, regional and local levels.  And involving owners, managers, staff, residents, family and friends is essential.  There was also a lot of discussion about the need for a national minimum data set that can be used to help enhance the care; available to homes and researchers.  We need to find better ways to work together to benefit people living in care homes – events like this which utilise the networks and connections of CLAHRCs across England provide a great opportunity for creating connections between researchers working in the care home field.’  Jo Day, Research Fellow (Implementation science).

A fascinating day.  So interesting to have the views and input of people with so many different perspectives and experiences. We need to bear in mind the huge diversity in care home provision and the challenges this brings to generating, sharing and using knowledge.  Involving people with relevant experience in all stages of research is vital – this includes those who live in, work in and visit care homes.’ Jo Thompson Coon, Associate Professor (Evidence Synthesis).

Thank you to Claire and her team for all the work that went into organising such an interesting and stimulating event – we can’t wait until the next one!

Watkins R, Goodwin VA, Abbott RA, Hall A, Tarrant M. Exploring residents’ experiences of mealtimes in care homes: A qualitative interview study. BMC Geriatr. 2017 Jul1;17(1):141. doi: 10.1186/s12877-017-0540-2

Watkins R, Goodwin VA, Abbott RA, Backhouse A, Moore D, Tarrant M. Attitudes, perceptions and experiences of mealtimes among residents and staff in care homes for older adults: A systematic review of the qualitative literature. Geriatr Nurs. 2017 Jul – Aug;38(4):325-333. doi: 10.1016/j.gerinurse.2016.12.002.

Whear R, Thompson Coon J, Bethel A, Abbott R, Stein K, Garside R. What is the impact of using outdoor spaces such as gardens on the physical and mental well-being of those with dementia? A systematic review of quantitative and qualitative evidence. J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2014 Oct;15(10):697-705. doi: 10.1016/j.jamda.2014.05.013.

Orr N, Wagstaffe A, Briscoe S, Garside R. How do older people describe their sensory experiences of the natural world? A systematic review of the qualitative evidence. BMC Geriatr. 2016 Jun 1;16:116. doi: 10.1186/s12877-016-0288-0.

Photo by “My Life Through A Lens” on Unsplash