Nursing home residents and their families are eagerly looking forward to “reuniting” and enjoying “meaningful visits” from Monday (07.12.2020) as restrictions on visiting long term residential care facilities are relaxed.
According to the latest guidelines from the HSE Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC), nursing home residents should receive up to one visit, by one person, per week under Levels 3 and 4 and up to one visit, by one person, per two weeks under Level 5.
The guidelines outline that visits should be limited to one hour and the visit does not need to be by the same person each week.
Sage Advocacy has been inundated over the last four months with calls from families, in various part of the country, who are worried about the impact of being separated from their loved ones in nursing homes because of visitor restrictions.
Sage Advocacy established a Nursing Home Residents- Family Forum in September to give nursing home residents and their families a forum to discuss issues of concern and provide structured feedback and suggestions which the organisation has communicated to government, regulators and providers.
Sarah Lennon, Executive Director, Sage Advocacy, said: “As a result of our Family Forum we have dealt with a significant volume of calls from family members who have repeatedly told us that they felt their mother, father or husband or wife was ‘locked away’ from them because of the visiting restrictions.
“We remain acutely aware of the risk of Covid-19, but we have consistently maintained that the policy makers must ensure a balance to managing the risk, because we know from our work that when older people or those with a disability are physically separated from their family, friends and loved ones and unable to see them it can have a big impact on their well being and their mental health.
“We have continually advocated for nursing home residents to exercise their right to see their families and for their choice and control over contact with their families to be respected.
“We know of many people across the country who have been desperately holding out until the day they can reunite with their loved ones in nursing homes and it will come as a huge relief to them that these latest guidelines should help to facilitate that from Monday.”
However, Sage Advocacy has also warned that it has already received a number of calls from concerned members of its Family Forum who believe the latest HPSC guidelines that outline the relaxation of restrictions on visiting nursing homes may not deliver all that they hope for.
Ms Lennon said: “We know of some nursing home operators who have contacted family members to tell them that they have implemented a time limit of 15 minutes per visit, once a week, for one family member.
“We do not believe this is in the spirit of the latest guidelines and we would urge nursing home operators to facilitate meaningful, safe visits between nursing home residents and their loved ones in the run up to Christmas and over the New Year period.
“We have also received significant inquiries about other Christmas arrangements because we know that in the past many residents left their nursing homes to spend a period of time celebrating Christmas and the New Year with their families in their own homes. There is no guidance yet as to whether this will be facilitated this year in Level 3.”