Sage Advocacy is warning that families are concerned about the impact of new visiting restrictions which come into force in Dublin today (13/09/2020) on their loved ones in nursing homes.
Sarah Lennon, Executive Director of Sage Advocacy - which provides a support and advocacy service for vulnerable adults, older people and healthcare patients - said the safety of residents must always be the first priority and health measures taken in the public interest must be respected at all times.
But Ms Lennon said residents of nursing homes also have a right to see and enjoy visits with their loved ones.
Sage Advocacy is currently in the process of establishing a new Nursing Home Residents - Family Forum, which would enable relatives of nursing home residents to discuss issues of concern and provide structured feedback and suggestions to government, the regulator and providers.
According to families who have contacted Sage Advocacy to take part in Forum they believe that regular visits by loved ones is hugely important to the ‘‘quality of life’’ of nursing home residents.
Ms Lennon said: ‘‘We are all acutely aware of the risk of Covid-19 and we appreciate that decisions relating to visting protocols in nursing homes will sometimes have to be taken on a day to day basis.
‘‘But there must also be balances to this approach because we know the risks that social isolation can bring.
‘‘When older or more vulnerable people 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.’’
Ms Lennon has urged the Government to urgently examine what other measures could be taken – both in the short and longer term – to ensure that the bond between nursing home residents and and their loved ones is not broken because of the threat of Covid-19.
‘‘We need to ensure that effective emergency response measures are in place because this is an issue that we may have to live with for some time and there are already lessons that must be learned from Covid-19.
‘‘We support many of the recommendations in the Nursing Home Expert Panel report including that each nursing home should have a clear infection, prevention and control strategy, a preparedness plan and have deep cleaning protocols in place.
‘‘Infection control training should be also mandatory for all grades of nursing home staff and it is also important to ensure that nursing homes have appropriate staffing levels in place.
‘‘We also believe that independent advocacy is vitally important, particularly at times of crisis to ensure that the voices of those who may be left most vulnerable are heard. While we must all do what we can to stop the spread of Covid-19, this does not automatically mean that residents in nursing homes must be kept apart from their families and loved ones.’’