New guidance on visiting long term residential care facilities, including nursing homes, which comes into effect today (March 22) will be very much welcomed by nursing home residents and their families, Sage Advocacy has said.
From March 22, nursing home residents can have two visits per week on general compassionate grounds, once there is a high level of vaccination in the facility. There is no requirement to limit each visit to less than one hour.
Sarah Lennon, Executive Director of Sage Advocacy, said: “This is a very welcome development today and this country’s 30,000 nursing home residents and their families are looking forward to safe, meaningful reunions together.
“We know from our work that visiting arrangements have been a key issue for both nursing home residents and their families since last March when Covid-19 was first reported in nursing homes. Since then, residents have had very limited or often no contact at all with their loved ones.
“The new guidance today which will enable nursing home residents to have two visits per week with loved ones is a very welcome first step and we would urge nursing home providers to respect and comply with the latest guidance on visits to nursing homes and long term residential care facilities, which has been published by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre.”
Ms Lennon said Sage Advocacy is aware that some nursing home providers have already informed residents and families that they will not facilitate two visits per week as stated in the guidance.
“We know that there are many nursing home providers who have already introduced indoor visiting ahead of today which has been welcomed by residents and their loved ones – we all know how difficult it has been for the staff who care for nursing home residents over the last 12 months.
“But Sage Advocacy’s Nursing Home Residents – Family Forum has been notified by family members about a number of nursing home providers who are not acting in the spirit of the guidelines and have not provided any explanation to residents or families about why they are acting in this manner.
“We are aware of nursing home providers who are offering only one visit for 30 minutes each week, or also insisting that visitors also undertake lateral flow tests before entering the nursing home, although according to the HPSC testing of visitors in advance of visiting is not required at present and we also know of one nursing home who has informed families that there will be no indoor visits this week, despite the change in guidance.
“Families and nursing home residents are understandably very upset if a nursing home provider adopts this position with regard to the new visiting guidance.
“Nursing home residents have a right to see their families and should have choice and control over their contact with their families.
“We are today urging the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly TD and the Minister for Mental Health and Older People, Mary Butler TD, to ensure that nursing home providers adhere and comply with the new visitor guidance on nursing home visits”.