The government’s promise of reuniting families with their loved ones in care homes has not become a reality for many older people, according to the Relatives & Residents Association.
A week after the reintroduction of care home visits, the R&RA said it had received a “flood of calls” from families still being denied meaningful contact or facing blanket rules which make visiting impractical or too distressing.
Helen Wildbore, director of the R&RA, said: “This past week our helpline has heard heart-warming stories of families reuniting and taking their first steps to rekindle lost relationships, reignite fading memories and reconnect, albeit through latex gloves.
“However, for too many families this promise has not become a reality. We have received a flood of calls from distraught families still not able to have visits or facing blanket rules which make visits too distressing for the most vulnerable residents.
“Helpline callers who have had their first meaningful visit in a year are disturbed by seeing the decline in their relative first-hand. From significant weight loss to the decline in cognition, a year of isolation has had a devastating impact on mental and physical health. We are supporting families to pick up the pieces of a year of isolation.”
The R&RA has heard that some care homes are refusing to open until 12 April or when residents have had their second vaccination dose.
The charity said too many care homes were imposing ‘blanket rules’ such as 30-minute visits in a dedicated visiting room without consideration of individual needs.
Additionally, the R&RA said many care homes were refusing to enable family members to become essential caregivers.
The R&RA has also received calls from families upset at having to choose which family member gets to see their loved one under the new rules, as well as: restrictions around visiting; people being granted end of life visits right at the end of life when their loved one may be already unconscious; and the perpetual lockdown of some homes.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We understand visits to care homes are crucial in supporting the health and wellbeing of residents, and we are doing everything we can to safely reintroduce visits.
“While care home providers and managers are best placed to determine safe visiting arrangements in each unique setting, we are clear we expect all care homes to do what they can to follow our guidance.
“If people have concerns with the visiting arrangements available, we urge them to raise the matter with the home initially, and then contact the CQC if they are not satisfied that the issue is resolved.”