Teaching and training carers during the COVID-19 pandemic

As the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK progresses there will be a shift in the focus of work carried out by physiotherapy staff from supporting critical lifesaving care to the rehabilitation of those who have recovered.

A core part of physiotherapy practice in the context of rehabilitation involves supporting and empowering people who undertake formal or informal caring responsibilities to provide care to those recovering from illness or injury. This is in order to enhance the physical function, emotional well-being and overall comfort of the individuals for whom they care.

By carer we mean the full range of people who undertake caring responsibilities. I.e. family members, friends, social and private sector carers and those working in supported living, residential and nursing home environments. 

Working with carers is a particularly important approach for physiotherapy staff in order to support individuals who due to their physical or cognitive limitations may not be able to work on self-management strategies alone.

Physiotherapists and physiotherapy support workers provide this support by either:

  • Delegating tasks or activities to named carers as part of an individual’s on going physiotherapy treatment episode.
  • Delivering training to upskill carers to work support the provision of rehabilitation with individuals or cohorts of people who have particular healthcare needs.

It is never appropriate to ask carers to undertake interventions that should only be carried out by trained healthcare staff. However, during the social distancing and shielding requirements of COVID-19, supporting carers to carry out tasks and activities that they can safely provide is a sensible approach to minimise face to face contacts.    

In addition during COVID-19, we expect to see an increasing need to delegate to and teach and train carers. This in order to meet high demand for physiotherapy, functional rehabilitation and optimise the impact of the physiotherapy workforce’s knowledge and skill.

There are differences in these approaches in terms of the accountability and responsibility for the interventions provided. Concerns about responsibility and accountability are often a barrier to efficient working practices.

We therefore outline three scenarios to clarify these issues and in order to support physiotherapy staff and carers to work confidently in these ways.

In addition we recommend that local services develop information for carers which outlines the roles and responsibilities of all involved; basic advice and instruction on what has been taught and incudes who to contact and when if they have questions or concerns.

Download the document below for more information.