Yesterday (22 July) the Department for Health and Social Care made the welcomed announcement that care home residents are set to be reunited with friends and family again following the publication of new guidance.
Many carers, family and friends have been cut off from their loved ones living in residential care settings for several months now and although this is welcomed news it does not necessarily mean carers, family and friends suddenly have instant, regular access to their loved ones.
Local directors of public health will lead assessments on visiting within their local authority. They will be expected to take a measured, risk-assessed approach, considering the situation in each care home, the community they reside in, as well as any local outbreaks of Covid-19.
Ultimately the decision of whether individual care homes will allow visitors will fall to the provider and managers of each setting.
Earlier in July 2020 the Alzheimers Society, and other dementia organisations across the country, sent an open letter to the Government calling for family carers to be given key worker status when visiting care homes. They highlighted the need for recognition that unpaid carers are an integral part of the care system and need to be valued as equal partners, otherwise the essential care and wellbeing of the individual suffers.
The letter highlighted that "this enforced separation has had particularly damaging consequences for those living with dementia (who make up over seventy per cent of the population of care homes) and their carers." With some residents feeling forgotten, isolated and confused and families experiencing a sense of loss and living grief. This is also true for loved ones of residents with learning disabilities or autism. Practical and emotional support is often provided by unpaid carers alongside care workers.
Sue Parker, who has a 29-year-old son with autism and OCD spoke with the BBC and welcomed the guidance but said it would not help in her case as it isn't an option to visit her son in his residential care home. Prior to the pandemic Sue's son would see his family by returning to his family home most weekends which is still not an option for him within the new guidance.
Sue went on to say "It seems throughout that it has been a blanket one-size-fits-all policy [for social care], with a focus on the elderly and frail," she said, adding that the new guidance seemed to be "disproportionate" for her son, given that he is young and physically fit.
The implementation of this new guidance has come too late for many families who have lost loved ones during the pandemic.
The total number of Covid-19 related deaths in care homes is 45,501 as of 22 July 2020.
Chief executive Professor Martin Green from Care England (the country's largest representative body for independent providers of adult social care) said: "This guidance should have been with care providers last month. We are at a loss to understand why the Department of Health and Social Care cannot act quickly in a crisis or why it is deaf to the comments and input from the sector."
Our thoughts are with anybody who has lost a loved one during this time. Local support is available if you need it. Cruse North East are one of the organisations available in Middlesbrough Tel: 01642 210284.
Family and friends visiting loved ones in care home's should expect the following in accordance with the new guidance:
- To liaise with care home staff before visiting.
- To recognise that the position may change, a care home may prevent visitors again in the future if this is in the best interests of the residents and staff team.
- To wear a face covering, hands should be washed thoroughly before and after the face covering is worn.
- Wear further appropriate PPE if required such as gloves and aprons.
- Visits may take place in outdoor spaces where possible.
- Provide contact details for the purpose of NHS Test and Trace.
- The number of visitors will be limited with the recommendation of one nominated constant visitor per resident.
As care home's start to open locally we will keep you up to date with any further developments. Please ensure you contact the care home in which your loved one resides before visiting.