Evidence Brief: Caregivers as Essential Care Partners
During the COVID‑19 pandemic, early and tight blanket restrictions were placed on “visitors” in healthcare institutions, including acute care and rehabilitation hospitals, long‑term care homes, and in other residential congregate care settings. Well into the first year of the pandemic, emerging evidence demonstrated the significant impact such restrictions had on the quality of life and physical and emotional/psychological well‑being of many people – including patients* families, caregivers, and providers. The ‘Evidence Brief’, completed in November 2020, provides a synopsis of evidence regarding the presence of caregivers as essential care partners in the following four key areas:
- Benefits of family caregiver presence: Highlights the growing body of evidence that demonstrates improvements in patient safety, patient experience, patient outcomes and patient care with presence of essential care partners across a range of institutional care settings.
- Better Together: family caregiver presence policies in hospitals across Canada. Results of previous CFHI programming in Better Together demonstrate shifts in family presence policies in hospitals across Canada over the past 5 years; changes in family presence policies are also noted during COVID-19 in hospitals and long-term care settings.
- Transmission of COVID-19 in hospitals and long-term care: Reports on the transmission of COVID-19 within facilities during this time of pandemic.
- Impacts of restrictive visiting policies during COVID-19 in hospitals and long-term care: Emerging evidence highlights the multitude of risks noted to patient care, patient safety and patient outcomes, as well as impacts on families.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, this body of evidence continues to grow. The 'Evidence Brief Addendum' adds to the initial 'Evidence Brief' by providing an updated synopsis of evidence regarding the presence of essential care partners that has emerged between the fall of 2020 and July 2021. The Addendum focuses on the following three key areas:
- Caregiver presence policies that have continued to change throughout the COVID-19 pandemic across Canada: Increased understanding of COVID-19, notable impacts of restrictive policies on patients, and community transmission rates influenced the ongoing changes to provincial and territorial directives related to visitor policies throughout the pandemic. More recent directives indicate that a more balanced approach to enable the physical presence of caregivers. However, implementation of these directives remains inconsistent within provinces, territories and regions, even in times of reducing COVID-19 prevalence and increasing vaccine uptake.
- Transmission of COVID-19 in hospitals and long-term care: Numerous studies conducted through the pandemic are consistent with pre-pandemic literature, which demonstrates family presence does not increase rates of COVID-19 transmission when supported and highlights the success of infection and prevention control measures that support safety and limits transmission in health and care settings.
- Impact of restrictive visiting policies during COVID-19 in hospitals and long-term care: There is a significant amount of evidence that highlights the multitude of risks to the care, safety, and outcomes of patients, as well as impact on families and caregivers, health and care providers, and the health system.
*“patient” includes clients and people living in long term care/nursing homes/advanced care homes, and other congregate care facilities.