It is not only about staying alive: A living systematic review of social care strategies for older adults in residential care facilities during COVID‑19 pandemic.
More than 80% of the COVID-19-related deaths in Canada occurred in geriatric residential care facilities, such as long-term care, assisted living, and other types of congregate living settings for people over 65 years of age (Coletta, 2020; Hsu et al., 2020; Miller, 2020). In an attempt to curb the mortality rate, strict public measures have been introduced in these care settings (e.g., social distancing, family visitation restrictions, etc.). However, human life is more than just staying alive. The restrictions have resulted in some unintentional adverse psycho-social effects, such as social isolation and loneliness, decreased social support, and other unaddressed social determinants of health (SDH) (El Haj, Altintas, Chapelet, Kapogiannis, Figueroa Miller, 2020; Nwachukwu et al., 2020; Thombs et al., 2020). To respond to the devastating impact of the pandemic on social environment of older adults in residential care, a rapid growth of research generated evidence on various social care strategies in residential care facilities (Bilal, Latif, Bashir, Komal, Figueroa Lepkowsky, 2020). However, no knowledge synthesis or quality assessment of this large volume of studies has been done to date (Thombs et al., 2020). This decreases the usability of the studies by practitioners, decision-makers, and researchers.
Study Objectives and Methods
The goal of this 18-month study is to synthesize the emerging evidence on social care strategies during the pandemic in geriatric residential care facilities in Canada. Informed by the Social Determinants of Health (SDH) (Mikkonen,
2) To identify the gaps in addressing specific types of the SDH in these facilities and to offer recommendations for future research and practice.
The research team will conduct a Living Systematic Review (LSR) (Cochrane Community, 2019) to synthesize all emerging evidence since the start of the pandemic in Canada in 2020.
The Potential Contribution
This study will be the first systematic review of social care strategies in residential care facilities at the time of the COVID‑19 pandemic in Canada. This study will identify gaps in research on social care in these settings by mapping unaddressed SDH. This information will inform social workers and other professionals in geriatric residential care (e.g., recreational specialists, nurse professionals, etc.) because there is a growing recognition among human service and medical professionals about the impact of the SDH on human wellbeing, health outcomes, and healthcare costs. Further, knowledge of social care strategies in institutional settings can be transferrable to other types of institutional care with older adult clientele (e.g., hospital settings, correctional services, addiction care facilities, etc.). Finally, this study will provide recommendations for future research directions on social care in geriatric residential care facilities. The study will also experiment with applying the LSR (living systematic review) as an emerging methodology, contributing to the methodological discussion on knowledge synthesis in real time. As this study is part of the larger research program, the team will submit a SSHRC Connection Grant proposal to facilitate the knowledge mobilization of the study findings. In the future, the team will apply to SSHRC Insight Grant to test the effectiveness of the identified social care strategies in the Canadian residential care facilities.