Campaign to End Isolation of Older People in Care launched by Relatives & Residents Association

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The Relatives & Residents Association (R&RA) has launched a campaign calling to #EndIsolationInCare. The charity believes the continued isolation of older people in care is putting their human rights at risk. R&RA is calling on the Government to take urgent action and amend their guidance for the sector.

 

Seven months after care homes went into lockdown, many older people are still unable to see their family and friends. Inadequate guidance from the Government about visiting has kept many homes in lockdown and led to unworkable policies which make visiting impossible for some families. For some, the guidance has taken them backwards, resulting in more restrictions on their contact.

 

The R&RA Helpline receives calls daily about the impact of isolation, with people losing weight, losing speech, no longer recognising family members, and ‘losing the will to live’.

 

Helen Wildbore, director of the Relatives & Residents Association says people living in care need to be reconnected with their support networks, to reinstate the crucial emotional and practical support family and friends provide. She says “many family carers play a vital role in helping protect the well-being of their relatives, from help with eating, to relieving the distress of dementia”.

 

Better guidance from Government is required in order to support care homes to safely open up. The R&RA is calling for the current guidance on visiting to be changed, including:

  • Single, constant visitor: this should be removed from the guidance, it is inhumane, impractical and created painful decisions for families
  • Time limits on visits: make clear that these are not required, they have made visiting too distressing and impractical for many
  • Regular testing: this must be made available for visitors, as well as residents and staff
  • Privacy: stipulate that staff shouldn’t chaperone visits (except in exceptional situations such as safeguarding)
  • Group decisions: rather than encouraging blanket policies, putting people’s rights at risk, decisions should be based on individual assessments

 

Helen Wildbore said:

“Months of isolation have had a devastating impact on many people living in care, both on their mental and physical health. As the country re-emerges from lockdown and adjusts to the ‘new normal’, older people living in care have been left behind once again by the Government. Residents feel abandoned. Relatives are becoming increasingly worried and frustrated. Care staff, already facing burn out, will be doing what they can to fill the void but cannot replace the support and love of family and friends.

 

“The Government’s guidance on visiting is not fit for purpose. Care providers need clarity and leadership. They need clear, practical guidance and support from the Government about managing visits whilst COVID-free, and planning for if they develop cases. We need to achieve a better balance between protecting people from the virus and protecting their well-being. Care homes are people’s homes. They are places where people should expect a good quality of life, not simply to exist.”

 

Family perspective:

“Last night my mother almost broke my heart when she said ‘I’m so afraid that I may die in this place before lockdown is lifted. I’ll never meet my great grandson’. I am desperately afraid that my mother’s very real fear will be realised. She is mentally strong and acutely aware of her own fragility these days. I fear that she is being kept alive physically but is losing the will to live. People cannot survive without hope and there is no hope being offered here.”

Margaret, R&RA Helpline caller, Gloucester

 

 

Care provider perspective:

 

“The government needs to provide clearer guidance which works for residents, families, and the care sector; many of whom are looking to offer a better regime for visits, but the current out-of-date guidance does not support this.”

 

Richard Hawes, Chief Executive, Elizabeth Finn Homes Ltd

6 COMMENTS

  1. My mum was in a Care Home when lockdown started last March. She had Alzheimer’s, had very limited sight and was bed bound, Her speech had also become very limited. She would react to my voice if there was a Zoom call organised by the Care Home, which was the only communication that we could have since March, 2020. Sadly, she passed away in December in her room, on her own.
    No one should be denied the company of immediate family in their last days. It’s inhuman and distressing for everyone, including the Care Home staff who see people that they have developed a relationship with being denied the special contact with close family members.

  2. My sister who has MS, unable to walk or care for herself without help, entered a Care Home in January 2020. Her 3 married children and sister all live 2 – 3 hours away making it very difficult to visit and barely worth it for 30 minutes. Rare permitted visits (about 5) have been restricted to weekdays and banned altogether for weeks on end, even before latest lockdown. On 2 occasions last year, her daughter drove over 3 hours and booked overnight accommodation only to be told she could not visit as pre arranged. My sister has been briefly outdoors twice in that year, Being on the 3rd floor even window visits are out (staff apparently unwilling to take her wheelchair downstairs) so she has not seen her 7 grandchildren even at a distance. She is fully mentally independent and alert, but feels imprisoned and has received no physical stimulation or therapy. Staff and residents have, I believe, received the first vaccination and regular testing.

  3. I feel that in the world right now people should have the right to take their love ones out of the care home if they are able to look after them .And others should have the right to see there love ones in there home environment.I don’t think anyone would risk them getting the virus and would isolate themselves to see them .I know of carers who have more than one job working in shops etc .surely if they can do this then families should see there kin .

    • My mother is in a Carehome, she spent her 100th birthday last year in lockdown , I was able to visit her in the garden fully masked on her birthday, the visit was 30 mins and chaperoned. mum wears 2 hearing aids so it was almost impossible for her to hear through the mask and the social distancing. Mum had full mental capacity , The lockdown in care homes was lifted in March of this year ,I have had one half hour visit , with a weekly slot of half an hour throughout April. Mum has recently recovered from Coronavirus so has been in isolation, then after a fall. Where she had to go to hospital for a day to have her legs bandaged. Again another 2 weeks behind closed door. Her mental health has deteriated badly, since Christmas, she’s tearful and resigned to the fact she’s not going to be around much longer. I’m waiting now another week for my half hour visit , it’s cruel , Ive visited mum half a dozen times in a year !!

  4. Iv had to watch from outside a window at my mums care home the paramedic. I had to raise the alarm my mum was gasping for breathe 6 weeks ago as I arrived to wave at her through double glazing .. I had to bang on windows to raise the alarm! I thought she was about to die as I watched her through the window.. her face was terrified and she was raising her left hand to me for help it was absolutely heart breaking! I thought I was about to lose her from the other side of a window.. it made me ill I’m now taking anxiety medication and blood pressure.. this is barbaric to shut us out even the paramedic that came outside to speak to me said it was wrong that the elderly are existing this way not living existing .. it has to stop

  5. My sister is 72 has early dementia she is getting worse have window visits cannot visit used to take her out every week so am very worried about her

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