Building a Better Health Service


Older people missing the company and activities of closed Day Services

Volunteers at Meals on Wheels Tralee prepare the meals ahead of delivery to the clients.

Volunteers at Meals on Wheels Tralee prepare the meals ahead of delivery to the clients

The COVID-19-enforced closure of Day Services for older people has had a major impact on clients, with one in five expressing a feeling of loneliness or isolation as a result.

However, new repurposed services, including the provision of Meals on Wheels, telephone calls, laundry service; etc, are having a positive impact on quality of life of the clients with one in two clients availing of new services.

“I feel great, all I need to do is give a call to ask for anything I need. When they drop my meal they always ask if I need anything. They are just fantastic. I can't wait to get back,” explained one client.

The findings are from research commissioned by The National Office for Services for Older People and Palliative Care Strategy to look at the impact of the closure of Day Services on service users, carers for people with dementia and the service providers.

This research was done in collaboration with the Community Work Department in Kerry and clients from a sample of nine day services in Kerry participated in phone interviews as part of the research.

It highlights the important role day services and the community and voluntary sector play in supporting older people and their families in the community. It also highlighted how the re purposed services helped maintain people to remain well at home during the COVID situation. The impact of the closure of the day services has been significant and this research is important to support in planning both the future needs of clients and of the services that have been critical in maintaining core essential support mechanisms for older people during COVID 19.

The company (86%) and the activities (70%) are the two things missed most by existing clients with a third (31%) saying they miss Personal Care services.

Of the new services being offered, 49% are availing of Meals on Wheels, 25% phonecalls, 17% exercise booklets sent to clients and 12% had groceries/prescriptions delivered.

While Day Services are fulfilling the needs of client’s (meals, groceries, prescriptions, etc.) they offer much more than just a delivery service. Many clients appreciate the social element and feel safer and happier knowing they are there.

The new repurposed services have had a significantly positive impact on the lives of new service users, with one reporting, “Services are fantastic, could not ask for better.”

Meals on Wheels (94%) and information packs sent to clients (30%) are the most common services availed of by the new service users. 

The Meals on Wheels service is not only helpful and convenient, but also provides a welcome opportunity for company and a chat at the door which is much appreciated. They have found that the services have not only made their lives a bit easier, but have also given them great peace of mind during these uncertain times.

“I live alone and it is a fantastic service and it is nice to talk with the person delivering the meals,” said one. Another new user said, “It makes a vast difference altogether. The fact it is a cooked dinner and delivered is fantastic.”

Almost all (91%) intend to continue availing of the new repurposed services in the future.

90% of clients said they would be happy to return to the Day Services once restrictions are lifted. This was attributed to the trust that the clients have in their Day Service not to reopen until it is safe to do so and knowing that all necessary measures would be in place.

“I feel they are already doing the very best they could. And it would be easy to go back with what they already had in place,” said one.

A spokesperson from the Kerry Day Service Survey Steering Committee explained that Day Services ‘serve as a nexus’ between home and acute care and long-stay care and are especially valuable in supporting not only older people with complex needs but especially those with high dependency, and their family carers also.

“The closure of the Day Service has highlighted the vulnerability of older adults, restructured day services such as Meals on Wheels have been critical in maintaining a lifeline to older adults during this time,” she said.

“The community and voluntary sector have demonstrated the ability to respond to the crisis and to the local needs and this response is dependent on the flexibility and resilience of staff and significant voluntary input. 

“The planning and resourcing of the resumption of services post-COVID needs to be prioritised to facilitate access to services for older adults while adhering to public health guidelines. This needs to be done in partnership with the community and voluntary sector. 

“Long-term strategic planning and funding of day services need to acknowledge the role these services play in maintaining older adults living safely and independently in the community and need to plan and fund them appropriately to ensure their development and sustainability. Having a strong community infrastructure and supportive social networks are key factors that help communities withstand and adapt to crisis.”