Nursing home residents and their families will welcome new guidelines that ensure residents will be able to have two visits with their loved ones from March 22, Sage Advocacy has said.
Sage Advocacy said that although the new HPSC guidance state that the two visits per week will be “facilitated” on compassionate groups, the Minister for Health has confirmed that the guidance sets out an expanded scope of visiting on “general compassionate grounds”.
The Minister said that “compassionate grounds could be for example to see a family member or friend as prolonged absence is causing upset or for personal reasons, to make financial or other arrangements or to advocate on their behalf.”
Under the new guidelines there will also no longer be a requirement to limit visits in nursing homes to less than one hour.
Sarah Lennon, Executive Director of Sage Advocacy, said two visits per week is an important initial step for nursing home residents and their families who have been physically separated for more than a year.
Ms Lennon said: “We have been supporting nursing home residents and their families throughout the pandemic and we know how distressing it has been for residents to be physically separated from their loved ones and how isolated and lonely many of them have been. Residents of nursing homes have autonomy and a right to have visitors and to choose who to see.
"Two visits a week with their loved ones from March 22 is a very important first step. But we will be closely monitoring how nursing homes adhere to these new guidelines and how they accommodate nursing home residents and their families in facilitating the visits.
“We know that previous visitor guidance was open to interpretation by nursing home providers and as a result, different restrictions were in place from nursing home to nursing home and from county to county.”
Mairead Blackall, who is a member of Sage Advocacy’s Nursing Home Residents-Family Forum, is very much looking forward to a visit with her mum under the new guidelines.
Mairead Blackall said: “Time is very precious to us, next month my darling mother will be 95 and she has had no physical contact with her family in a year, she can never get that time back so of course I welcome the new visitation guidance, but I feel there also needs to be confirmation on the visiting arrangements. My mother’s home is her own room, that is where she is most comfortable and that is where we want to be able to spend time with her.
“Her nursing home has been fantastic and we, as a family, are immensely grateful to them but they cannot love our mother the way we do. My mother has been very stoic throughout the pandemic, she recognised the threat that Covid-19 posed and she was very aware of it but since she had her vaccine she wants to know when we can come in and see her.
“She’s always been a very loving mother, we’re a very tactile family and all we have been able to do in the last year was stand at her window and blow kisses to her and raise our hands to the glass.
“Now we want to be able to go into the nursing home, to her room and celebrate her 95th birthday in the way she deserves”.
(Link to latest HPSC guidelines: Guidance on visits to RCF.pdf (hpsc.ie))