Families with relatives in nursing homes now have to rely on virtual visits to see their loved ones for a short space of time as more nursing homes refuse to facilitate outdoor or window visits because of the latest Covid-19 restrictions, Sage Advocacy has said.
The national charity said despite Government guidance which states that outdoor and window visiting is permitted at every level, some nursing homes have chosen to disregard the guidelines published by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre.
Sage Advocacy, which provides a support and advocacy service for vulnerable adults, older people and healthcare patients, has received an significant increase in the volume of calls from nursing home resident’s families this week who fear that their loved ones are becoming “isolated and lonely”.
Sarah Lennon, Executive Director of Sage Advocacy, said: “The first and over-riding priority must always be to safeguard the health and wellbeing of both residents and the staff who care for them and to prevent any possible future outbreak of Covid-19 in any long term care setting.
“But we must also not forget that when we talk about nursing homes that we are actually talking about the home environment for 30,000 people in Ireland.
“People who live in nursing homes have the same right to see their families if they so choose, in a safe manner with strict infection protection and control measures in place, as anyone else living in any other part of the community.
“Many nursing home residents don’t feel able to access community spaces and with many weekly scheduled activities such as art and music within nursing homes no longer running and the restrictions on visiting, even window-visits, they are essentially cut off from contact.”
Ms Lennon said that feedback from Sage Advocacy’s Nursing Home Residents - Family Forum suggests families and relatives want Government and Regulators to develop a national nursing home code for visitor access.
“We know from our Forum that many nursing homes had introduced virtual visits via Zoom, Facebook and WhatsApp, to replace outdoor and window visits even before the latest Covid-19 restrictions were announced.
“But families tell us that these do not work for everyone, particularly for those with loved ones who have a cognitive impairment and have dementia or Alzheimers and that increased levels of staff and more access to technology would also help to improve these virtual visits.
“Nursing home residents having access to the care and support given by family members is essential to emotional wellbeing and should never be under-estimated. The COVID-19 Nursing Homes Expert Panel Report set out a road map to protect nursing home residents – but so far residents and families do not know what progress has been made on implementing the essential recommendations which this panel put forward.”