COVID-19 Impacts on Long-Term Care Residents: A Patient-Initiated Research Project

NL SUPPORT
SUPPORT Letters
Published in
3 min readSep 10, 2020

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Patients’ involvement in health care research has been a growing area in the last number of years. If you are familiar with NL SUPPORT, then you’ve most likely heard the term Patient-Oriented Research (POR) or SPOR (Canada’s Strategy for Patient-Oriented Research). The Canadian Institute for Health Research (CIHR) defines POR as research that engages patients as partners, focusses on patient-identified priorities and improves patient outcomes. This research, conducted by multidisciplinary teams in partnership with relevant stakeholders, aims to apply the knowledge generated to improve health care systems and practices.

Patient engagement, a facilitator of POR, occurs when patients are meaningfully and actively engaged in governance, priority setting, conducting research and knowledge translation. As patient involvement and engagement in health research in Canada has evolved, many are beginning to wonder: what if the research, from the initial question to the results (with guidance from health research experts), originated from patients themselves? This is called Patient-Initiated Research. NL SUPPORT is currently exploring this type of research as one of our very own patient partners has brought forth an interesting research idea.

Navigating a global pandemic has had far-reaching effects on our daily lives. It has affected the way we behave, work, play and socialize. Until a vaccine is available, we must all play our part in keeping our family, friends, and those around us safe by abiding by the rules and regulations that have been put forth by public health officials. We must be vigilant, especially for our vulnerable populations which include the frail elderly who are more susceptible to harsher outcomes if they contract the virus. Approximately 80% of all COVID-19-related deaths in Canada have been residents in long-term care (LTC) facilities (source: National Institute on Ageing Long-Term Care COVID-19 Tracker). Governments acted fast in implementing strict policies such as closures to the public to ensure the safety of residents. Many LTC residents are already vulnerable to mental and physical decline, however compounding these issues is the forced isolation imposed by the pandemic. Public Health experts predict multiple waves of COVID-19 before a vaccine is available and immunity is achieved globally, so it’s likely that strict regulations will stay in place at these facilities for quite some time.

Photo by Georg Arthur Pflueger on Unsplash

The purpose of this study is to investigate how the spring/summer 2020 confinement period due to COVID-19 has impacted the mental and physical health of residents in LTC facilities and their families in Newfoundland and Labrador. This will be NL SUPPORT’s inaugural patient-initiated research project, co-led by members of the unit’s Patient Advisory Council. Data will be collected via questionnaires administered over the phone by our trained patient partners to a sample of residents in LTC facilities in Eastern Health and Western Health, and online to residents’ family members. Data from a LTC resident assessment tool will also be used to compare various physical and mental health indicators of well-being before and after the pandemic lockdown.

Stay tuned for updates from NL SUPPORT and its Patient Advisory Council on this research project as it moves ahead. We have a knowledgeable team with varying backgrounds and expertise from across the province and we look forward to exploring this important topic for the residents of Newfoundland & Labrador.

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