Care Home Visitor Rules: constructive suggestions for change
My mother (86) is in a care home. Care homes are, of course, currently protected by special guidance due to Covid-19. This guidance specifies no visitors. Due to this, my mother has not been able to see her husband, children, grandchildren or friends for over ten weeks with no end in sight.
The care home staff does a really great job but the best they can offer in terms of contact are video calls and “window visits”. This is inadequate and only sustainable in the very short term. Shielding them in this way prioritises quantity of life over quality of life. In addition to physical health we should be considering the mental health of these residents, who are towards the end of their lives and are scared.
Accordingly, I recently made two requests to the care home:
- My mother is brought to a designated visitor room. The room is thoroughly disinfected after each visit. Each visitor sanitises their hands prior to entry. The wearing of PPE and observing the two metre rule are mandatory.
- My mother could be brought outside in a wheelchair, when the weather is clement, to an outside area (e.g. a portion of the car park) where a visitor can sit over two metres away and have some quality time with my mother without ever needing to set foot in the care home, with my mother remaining in the wheelchair.
I believe that either suggestion offers a scenario where the benefits clearly outweigh the risks. The care home, though sympathetic, cannot grant either request because of the government`s “no visitor” rule. There is, they say, no leeway (except in the exceptional case where death is imminent).
These rules are inhumane – they deny quality of life to so many elderly people up and down the country. Ten weeks is already too long – we need to inject some common sense into this situation. Did you mean for the guidelines to be so rigidly interpreted? (We are – ahem – currently learning that the lockdown rules have more flexibility than currently understood.)
For the first time in 60 years of marriage my parents were not able to be together on their wedding anniversary. It is the most basic of human rights for a person to see their spouse, children and grandchildren. The current rules are heartbreaking and run the risk of residents dying without having seen their loved ones since the pandemic began (vice versa). The government would surely be courting great unpopularity were this to happen. This unpopularity would, I suggest, never be forgiven.
I am hopeful that you are already considering the issues that I raise in this letter and are planning more relaxed, common-sense guidance to the care home industry, perhaps in the ways that I suggest. In case you are not, I thought that I`d write to you imploring you to do so without delay to help ensure that the mental health of this elderly population is not forgotten. Time is not on our side and visits are all they look forward to.
The current situation in no way to end one`s life.
I await your response.