ARU Magic Me - ARCH Project - Dare To Imagine

18 Dare To Imagine Covid-19 disruption Impact of Covid-19 in care homes The Covid-19 pandemic had substantial impacts on everyone involved in the ARCH programme but was particularly devastating within care homes. In England and Wales, 45,632 care home resident deaths were registered as involving Covid-19 between the week ending 20 March 2020 and the week ending 21 January 2022 (ONS, 2021). These figures are likely to be an underestimate as not everyone was tested, and do not include the many care home staff who also lost their lives. They reflect the “slow, late and inadequate response to the risk and reality of Covid-19 in care homes” (Daly, 2020, p.985). At the time of writing in June 2023, the UK Covid-19 Inquiry has just got underway, set up to examine and learn from the response and impact of the pandemic. The restrictions on everyday life, disruption to community activity and businesses, and the emotional, physical, and financial costs of the virus and lockdowns are still playing out. However, existing research paints a picture of these turbulent times to provide important context for the artists’ residencies. Care homes faced many challenges, including severe staff shortages, increased workloads, and substantial disruption to daily working practices (Nyashanua, Pfendeb and Ekpenyong, 2020; Hanna et al., 2021). Care home staff experienced significantly increased responsibilities for endof-life care and exposure to a greater number of deaths, causing emotional trauma with little additional emotional support or time to grieve (Spacey et al., 2023). As a result, there were high levels of stress, anxiety, depression, and posttraumatic stress disorder amongst care home staff (Greene et al., 2021; Beattie et al., 2023). In addition to the impact on care home staff, the pandemic and associated restrictions also shaped residents’ experiences of loneliness. Pre-covid there were already high levels of loneliness amongst older people in care homes with the need for meaningful social engagement recognised as important to improve quality of life (Gardiner et al., 2020). The disruption and effect of the restrictions highlight the need for initiatives and activities that could restore meaning by reconnecting or establishing new connections with people and entities beyond the home (Ho et al., 2022). In this context, the significance and focus of the ARCH programme shifted, which is reflected in the subsequent phases of the artists’ residencies. Spring/Summer 2020 onwards Care home staff and those at Excelcare head office were totally focused on dealing with the health emergency, working to maintain the wellbeing of their residents and staff in an unprecedented and rapidly changing situation. Arts partners paused all planned work, cancelled tours and renegotiated their funding agreements, whilst working out how to support their regular participants, staff, and freelance artists at a distance. Some partner staff were furloughed for periods. Our best guess for when the main residencies could take place was Autumn 2020, then April 2021. Strict national guidelines on visiting care homes, meant our contact was via phone or Zoom, though some garden visits and work outside became possible in 2021. Care homes only opened fully to visitors in April 2022, though Covid-19 outbreaks could still mean a temporary closure to visits. Arts partners negotiated with their partner homes around what support or activities they might offer from a distance, depending on both the home and the partner’s capacity or situation. Plans had always to be flexible, open to change or cancellation. Excelcare’s purchase of iPads,