Sage Advocacy has urged decision makers to re-instate safe, meaningful indoor visits in nursing homes and reunite nursing home residents, who have endured months of physical separation, with their families.
Sarah Lennon, Executive Director of Sage Advocacy, said evidence shows the positive impact that the Covid-19 vaccine has had in nursing homes.
Ms Lennon said: “This has brought hope and reassurance to nursing home residents and their families but we know from our work how desperately anxious residents are now to be safely reunited with their families.
“We have received a substantial number of calls to our Nursing Home Residents - Family Forum from families literally begging for information about when they will be able to arrange a safe and meaningful indoor, face to face visit with their loved one in a nursing home.
“Residents of nursing homes have autonomy and a right to have visitors and to choose who to see.
“Residents and families have repeatedly told us that they fear time is running out for them and that cannot wait any longer to be physically reunited. Covid-19 has, in the cruelest manner, separated the 30,000 people who live in nursing homes for more than a year from their loved ones. What residents are telling us now is that they have had the vaccine and they want to start living the life they want to live, as soon as possible and Sage Advocacy would urge decision makers to recognise this and act on it.”
One member of Sage Advocacy’s Nursing Home Residents-Family Forum, Mairead Blackall, said her mother, has told her family she cannot wait until her family “can come in” and see her.
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 and she doesn’t have the time to spend another year without seeing her family face to face.
"The 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 now that she has 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 but all we have been able to do in the last year is stand at her window and blow kisses to her and raise our hands to the glass.
“We know she misses us so much and we can see that the lack of physical contact has had a big impact on her, she’s lost weight. I had daily visits with my mother in her room every day before Covid-19 and I know that if I was able to do that again it would hugely improve her life again.”
Ms Lennon said that while nursing home residents and families are looking forward to indoor visits resuming in nursing homes, it is important that there is no ambiguity around any new visiting guidance and that the guidance is communicated clearly.
“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.
“We also know from our work that not all nursing home providers facilitated window or compassionate visits and this caused great distress to families and nursing home residents. We would urge the Minister for Health to ensure that nursing home providers adhere and comply with any new visitor guidance on nursing home visits”.