A great deal of research is being done in care homes, and this will, we hope, improve the way care is delivered and the availability of treatments, and will go on to support and improve the overall health and wellbeing of residents. The ENRICH toolkit hopes to encourage stronger partnerships between researchers, care homes staff, residents and their families so that there is more research in care homes.
There are a number of ways in which care homes and residents can get involved or partner research:
- Join the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) ENRICH Research Ready Care Home Network – participation will give you access to local researchers to influence and advise on future research, and provide the opportunity to become involved in important local and national research.
- Researchers often advertise for people who use local NHS services to become involved in their projects. Look out for advertisements in newspapers, GP practices, libraries or community centres.
- You could approach researchers. Your local NHS Trust, Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) or University might have a research programme in which you could get involved. Their contact details will be in your local telephone directory and on the internet. Ask if they have a Research and Development (R&D) Manager or lead person for R&D, or contact university researchers directly about studies they are conducting.
- Some GPs and other health and social care professionals run research projects of their own, often with the support of a local primary care research organisation. It may be worth making enquiries at your local GP surgery or care agency.
Before making contact here are a few essential factors that you should consider before getting involved in research:
1. Have you discussed this with the residents and their families?
We know that there are mixed opinions on research. Some people may be anxious and/or reluctant, particularly if they believe they are not being fully engaged and consulted, while others will be very positive about the benefits. By showing interest you are not committing the residents to any involvement. However, it is advisable to ask what the residents think about research. This will then enable the local clinical research network to provide appropriate support and literature.
2. Be clear about why you want to become involved, and what you hope to achieve.
There are many ways to support research. Collaborating with your local clinical research network will allow you to be clear as to your preferences - for example, what types of research are you able to support, how much time are you able to commit, what do you want from the researchers?
“ENRICH has been a timely initiative. One particularly important aspect has been attention to the staff working in care homes. Researchers are reminded that they are hugely important to the lives of residents and staff often feel responsible for their well-being. Carrying out research in care homes often means asking staff to do a lot and the ENRICH initiative fully acknowledges this.”
Jill Manthorpe, Professor of Social Work, King's College London
3. Do your own research into the subject.
There are hundreds of websites and information sources that will talk about research and the benefits. Most are aimed at NHS patients, however many of the same issues are relevant to care homes and residents. Before agreeing to become involved in any research, take a look at some of the links in the right navigation bar.
4. Familiarise yourself with the language.
Researchers can speak a whole different language, full of jargon and acronyms. Try to familiarise yourself with the language being used, stay grounded in the real world of the care home and do not be afraid to ask questions or ask the researchers to rephrase things you do not understand or which have too much jargon. Researchers must comply with many rules and regulations, particularly around ethics, governance and safety of research participants. Speak up and remember that researchers are subject to similar rules as care home staff, and are working to the same standards of practice such as the Mental Capacity Act. Should you need to understand the terminology, you can use this Jargon Buster. Changes in the Disclosure and Barring Service mean that you may want to ask more about how the researchers have been checked and are supervised (see CRB checks ).
“At St Leonards we support research projects and have been involved in a couple which has enabled staff to learn more about supporting people with dementia and relatives understand dementia is an illness that affects everyone. By supporting research projects like Provide everyone gains support for the residents which supports staff and relatives understanding, developing staff to gain confidence in what they are doing. The Provide team have worked with us and supported the residents and relatives. The team communicates well with everyone and are flexible to come when we have quieter times, it is good to be supported and valuable to have independent feedback. At St Leonards we hope by being involved in projects it will help support others and grow everyone’s knowledge to do the best for our residents. Relatives will tell me they hope by research it will continue to find better understanding and solutions for people living with dementia.”
Teresa Warren, St Leonards Residential Home (Finalist for Care Home of the Year award)
Also see: NIHR Training course for care home staff