ENRICHEnabling Research in Care Homes
Teaching Care Home Staff Through Animations During The Pandemic.
Heather Birtles and Kristina Gray are Assistant Psychologists working at Newcastle Older Adults Mental Health Service and North East and North Cumbria Staff Wellbeing Hub, and have been producing animations during the pandemic as part of Communication And Interaction Training (CAIT).
A recent literature review (in press) showed that care home staff were experiencing high levels of mental health difficulties following the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the themes frequently discussed was a lack of skills and knowledge. Staff in the Newcastle Older People’s Mental Health Service and the North Cumbria staff wellbeing hub have been working on some animations to offer virtual educational content during the pandemic. This blog post discusses the role of animations in teaching and a description of the animations produced.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on the world and has been particularly challenging for older adults, their families and those who work with them. In early 2021, we conducted a literature review (in press) which explored the experiences of care home staff during the pandemic. We found many staff were experiencing high levels of anxiety, PTSD and depression. Staff also talked frequently about the following themes: Poor working conditions; Lack of skills and knowledge; Psychological/Mental health concerns; Feeling undervalued and abandoned; Fears of contagion; Support and Positive impacts of COVID. It was our hope to be able to use the results of the literature review to help inform services offers of support to care homes.
Animations as a Teaching Tool
When looking at how to deliver skills and knowledge to staff, animations were quickly settled on as the best tool. Newcastle Older People’s Psychology Team has created animation videos in the past to be used as part of Communication And Interaction Training (CAIT; James & Gibbons, 2019). Animations have been shown to be an effective teaching method, delivering information more successfully than text and pictures or text alone (Van Gervan et al., 2003) and have been shown to be effective for a whole spectrum of learners, including those in higher education, older adults and people with learning disabilities (Chan, 2015; Van Gervan et al, 2003; Baglama et al. 2018). Animations are also an engaging and enjoyable way to learn, and the animations shown in CAIT were met with positive reviews from staff. We needed a method of teaching which was short, effective and appropriate for care home staff without a background in psychology, and animations fit the bill.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, we quickly realised animations were our tried and true method of delivering information to care home staff. Furthermore, they could be delivered virtually, negating the need for visiting vulnerable care homes, and 5 minute long videos were accessible and agreeable to overworked and highly stressed care home staff who did not want to add to their long ‘to-do lists’.
The first animation was entitled “Meeting the needs of People with Dementia Living in Care Homes during the COVID 19 Pandemic”. This animation looked at the difficulties of meeting people’s fundamental needs due to COVID-19 restrictions and the creative ways that care home staff have managed to overcome these challenges. It is based Cohen-Mansfield’s work on unmet needs in dementia (ref), and their impact on wellbeing. It offers some practical, evidence based and real life examples of how to meet these needs in the context of the pandemic, and acknowledges the hard work and creativity of care home staff across the country.
The second animation created was “The Newcastle Model: A Family Guide for Inpatient Units”. Families of service users on our organic inpatient unit are heavily involved in their care and treatment, particularly in developing their Newcastle Model formulation. Families’ knowledge about their loved one’s life story, personality, likes and dislikes and more is invaluable in supporting us to develop a psychological understanding of the person’s difficulties. At the beginning of the pandemic, families were unable to visit our wards in person, so this animation was created to explain what formulation is and how they could support. Families can now visit the ward, but we have continued to use the animation to explain our psychological approach to both families, and to our student nurses and doctors.
In early July 2021 we learned that the CQC were planning on publishing the details of individual deaths in care homes. We knew that this might bring up a range of emotions for care home staff, residents and residents families. In light of this, the Newcastle Older Adults Mental Health service, alongside the North East and North Cumbria staff wellbeing hub and the Durham and Darlington care home wellbeing services, published the latest animation. We hoped that it might help explain some of the reasons care homes were so badly affected by COVID-19. This animation looks at the very many factors which contributed to the high death rates, including the virus, the environment of care homes, the policies and the resources (or lack thereof). It also explores the devastating impact of COVID and the deaths in care homes on staff, residents and their families.
Accessing these animations
We wanted to make these animations as accessible and widely used as possible. The pandemic has affected all corners of the globe and we wanted as many care home staff as possible to be able to access and benefit from them. As such, all the animations are available free of charge on YouTube. As previously stated, these animations were produced for and alongside Communication and Interaction Training (CAIT). The animations described above and all CAIT animations can be found on this YouTube page: Ian James – YouTube.