Benefits of care home research

Research in care homes should always have some benefit for those taking part even if the findings will only be useful for future residents and care home staff. It is very important that when approaching the care homes and building relationships that you properly articulate what you would like to achieve through your research, and focus on how it may benefit residents currently or in the future.

Historically, many care homes have been isolated communities. Participation in research can help to build links with other local health and social care services. Studies that bring training and access to other areas of healthcare e.g. physiotherapy have proven extremely successful. It is important that researchers support the care home to achieve its own goals and ambitions through its involvement in research. Good research in care homes is mutually beneficial with both the research team and the participants gaining from their involvement. Education and training for staff are always valued, as is the opportunity to discover improved ways to care and engage with residents.

It is important that care home owners, managers, staff and residents are involved in the study, ideally through all stages of developing and delivery. Treating the care home staff as co-researchers, and not only research subjects, will help to gain support.

It would be very disappointing if a study had the effect of making managers decide that research is too difficult or disruptive, but anecdotally we know this can occur.

The NIHR School for Social Care Research (SSCR) Methods Review on care home research outlines more in this area. Details can be found in the right navigation bar. Benefits to care home residents and their families are likely to be study-specific, but it’s important to ensure that you communicate these benefits. For example:

  • Research could enhance quality of life for residents, if they are able to participate in an activity or have someone to talk to.

A recent study found that some residents were able to talk to researchers about their lives and matters that were important to them, and said that this was generally not possible to do with others working in the home. Other studies have found that the boredom often reported by care home residents is ameliorated when researchers are around and interested in talking with them.

  • Research addresses issues that can be of great interest to staff, residents and their loved ones like frailty and nutrition, symptom management and end-of-life care.

Research studies that have encouraged partnerships, refined research questions with staff, and discussed findings, report positive responses and a willingness from care homes to continue involvement with research. Studies may lead to greater contact between care homes and the other health and care networks locally which can enrich mutual understanding and negate the stereotyped view that research focuses only on deficits and limitations.

  • Care homes may learn about new developments that are of use to their business. For example, the EVIDEM Mental Capacity Act (MCA) study provided one page summaries of the MCA to homes.
  • Homes may wish to say that they provide such opportunities to potential residents and their families to convey that they are leading their field and actively involved in knowledge creation and evidence-based care (e.g. include it in their information leaflet or website).
  • Care teams may experience greater job satisfaction if they feel that they are participating in studies where their skills and expertise are being recognised, it can also be beneficial to those studying for Qualification Credit Frameworks (QCFs) or the Care Certificate.
  • Staff and the care home may be provided with a certificate of participation which they can use in their portfolio or display.

“Elm Tree Court and the whole HICA group are committed to ensuring high standards of support to individuals. We therefore embrace new research and good practice guidance.  It is wonderful to be involved in the MARQUE study and we are looking forward to seeing what outcomes and recommendations may come from the research to enhance care for people.”

Manager of the Elm Tree Court care home in Hull

Information for Funders

Funders may seek evidence from grant applicants that researchers when designing a study have anticipated and worked with care homes to optimise the gains to residents, staff and the residents’ families.