A number of leading care charities and representative bodies have called for the re-opening of care homes to reunite residents and their families by 1 March.
A joint statement by Age UK, John’s Campaign, National Care Forum, Registered Nursing Homes Association, Relatives & Residents Association (R&RA) and Rights for Residents, calls for residents to be allowed meaningful indoor visits with essential caregivers by 1 March.
Helen Wildbore, director of the Relatives & Residents Association, (R&RA), (pictured) said: “Almost a year of isolation is having a devastating impact on older people in care. Our helpline hears the distress, despair and heartbreak of separation, and the desperation for a light at the end of the tunnel. We must safely reconnect families and friends, to stop the human rights crisis unfolding in care.”
The statement calls for essential caregivers to be recognised as “central to the person’s care” and be provided with relevant PPE and testing in line with safety measures applied to staff so that they can provide the support crucial to the health and well-being of their loved one.
Highlighting the emotional trauma caused by enforced separation, the R&RA cites the example of Brendan, an R&RA Helpline caller, and his wife Joan, who have had only two meaningful visits since their celebrating their 63rd wedding anniversary together on 23 March last year.
Since Christmas, the couple have only been able to see each other through window visits despite them both having been vaccinated.
Brendan said: “This is what we are reduced to. The past year has been hell. Something must be in place in care homes to let us see our loved ones. I don’t care about anything else, only being with Joan.”
A DHSC spokesperson said: “We know visits to care homes are crucial in supporting the health and wellbeing of residents, which is why we have updated guidance to ensure visits can continue to take place safely during periods of national lockdown.
“Visits can continue to take place with arrangements such as outdoor visiting, substantial screens, or visiting pods.
“While the vaccines provide protection from serious disease, we do not yet know if they prevent someone from passing on the virus to others. This means it is still important to follow the visiting guidance.
“We will do everything possible to make close contact visits possible the moment it is safe to do so.”