Sage Advocacy is urging 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 in line with new public health guidelines.
The latest guidelines from the HSE Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) outline that from 07.12.2020 “at all framework levels” every practical effort should be made “on compassionate grounds” by nursing home operators to facilitate visits in the long term residential care facility during the Christmas/New Year period “for those residents for whom this is an important period.”
The updated HPSC COVID-19 Guidance on visits to long term residential care facilities, also highlights that while nursing home operators have a responsibility to protect their residents and the staff who care for them from the risk of Covid-19, they also have an “obligation to facilitate and support visits for residents to the greatest extent possible”.
Sarah Lennon, Executive Director of Sage Advocacy, said: “We know from our work that families and nursing home residents have been anxiously waiting for clarification around the arrangements for visiting both in the lead up to the Christmas period and over the New Year.
“This is a very special time for families throughout the country but it is particularly important for nursing home residents, who have throughout the various frameworks, at times, been more restricted than most in our communities to be able to get together with their loved ones.”
Ms Lennon said that the latest HPSC guidelines clearly state that in door visiting during framework levels 3, 4 and 5 remains suspended aside from critical and compassionate circumstances.
While outdoor and window visits are permitted at all framework levels Ms Lennon has appealed to nursing home operators to show understanding to both residents and their families in the run up to and over the Festive period.
“We appreciate that the definition of compassionate circumstances is open to interpretation but it should not solely apply to end of life circumstances. For example the HPSC clearly outlines that it should also apply when a person nominated by the resident expresses concern that a prolonged absence is causing upset or harm to a resident.
“The HPSC also stipulates that at framework levels 3 and 4, subject to a risk assessment in each case, up to one visit per week by one person should be facilitated on compassionate grounds between nursing home residents and their families.”
Ms Lennon said although the latest guidelines will be welcomed by many members of the Sage Advocacy’s Nursing Home Residents – Family Forum, others will be disappointed by the limit on potential visits with their loved ones and also the fact that there is no clarification on whether residents will be able to leave their nursing home to visit or spend time at a private residence such as a family member’s house.
“We know from our work 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.”