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NURSING HOME RESIDENTS CAN RECEIVE UP TO FOUR VISITORS EACH WEEK UNDER NEW GUIDANCE WHICH COMES INTO EFFECT ON MAY 4 May 4, 2021

Nursing home residents and their families have told Sage Advocacy that they are looking forward to “making up for lost time” as new HSE guidance comes into force today which will facilitate an increase in weekly indoor visits - under certain conditions.

From May 4, providing there is a high level of vaccination in a nursing home – which means approximately about 8 out of every 10 residents in the facility have been vaccinated – residents will be able to have four visits by two people each week.

Organised outings for residents by bus or car will also be possible from May 4, providing there is a high level of vaccination among residents and if a risk assessment has been conducted in each case. (See: Guidance on visits to RCF.pdf (hpsc.ie))

Sarah Lennon, Executive Director of Sage Advocacy, said: “These new guidelines mark a vitally important step towards a more normal daily life for this country’s estimated 32,000 nursing home residents and their families.

“We’re in a very different place in Ireland today compared to where we have been in over the past 12 months. Dr Tony Holohan, the Chief Medical Officer, has urged people who are vaccinated to, restart many of the things they used to do from this month and this advice must also apply to nursing home residents. 

“We know from our work that many nursing home residents experienced a deterioration in their mental and physical health during lockdowns because of the physical separation from their loved ones.

“Nursing home providers now have a responsibility, under the latest HSE guidance, to facilitate safe, face to face additional visits which would give nursing home residents and their families the chance to make up for lost time”.

 The national advocacy and support organisation for vulnerable adults, older people and healthcare patients, said it is concerned that some nursing home providers have previously failed to completely adhere to the HSE guidance to facilitate visiting opportunities for nursing home residents.

The results of Sage Advocacy’s Nursing Home Residents – Family Forum Spring Survey, published today, show some families with relatives in some nursing homes are unhappy with the approach taken by some nursing home providers to facilitating visits.

The results of the survey suggest:

  • More than 60 per cent of respondents were not satisfied with current visiting arrangements.
  • More than 70 per cent of respondents said visits took place face to face but 22 per cent said visits were facilitated with a screen in place.
  • More than 40 per cent of respondents said visits took place in a residents’ room but 30 per cent said visits took place in a communal area while a further 25 per cent said visits were facilitated in a visiting pod.
  • More than 70 per cent of respondents said PPE had to be worn during a visit.
  • More than 85 per cent of respondents said visits were private but 14 per cent of respondents said a member of the nursing home staff was present during visits.
  • More than 97 per cent of respondents said nursing home providers were facilitating indoor visits.
  • Less than 2 per cent of respondents said nursing home providers had introduced antigen testing for visitors.

Ms Lennon said: “We have had families from across the country tell us that they would like to see more flexibility from nursing home providers in relation to safe visiting, particularly if their loved one is frail and they feel they do “not have much time left”.

“We know that some nursing home residents and their loved ones have had to choose who could visit, so the increase to four visits per week should make it easier for family members to reunite regularly and we are also very aware in some instances that there has been issues around privacy for visitors and their loved ones in some nursing homes if visits take place in a communal area.

“Some families have also been frustrated by the level of communication by nursing home providers which they believe needs to be improved.

“Our latest survey shows that over all the biggest issues for nursing home residents and their families continues to be access, visits and contact.

“We know from our work that the past 12 months have been exceptionally difficult for people who live in nursing homes and especially for those who are living with degenerative conditions such as Alzheimers – the lack of physical contact with their families has, in many instances, caused great distress for them and their loved ones.

Nursing home providers now have a responsibility to ensure that families can come together in a safe, meaningful manner and reconnect four times a week – and we would urge all nursing home providers to comply with the spirit of the latest guidance from today.”

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