Care home residents have been visited indoors by their relatives at Encore Care Homes for the first time in nearly 12 months following the new government guidance.
Mums, dads, brothers, sisters and close friends were able to finally hold hands with their loved ones, as they were reunited face-to-face at Encore Care Homes based across Dorset and Hampshire. It is the first time that relatives have been able to visit the care home residents in their rooms and have physical contact since the homes went into lockdown in March last year due to the pandemic.
Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock, announced last month that care home residents could be visited indoors by one named individual from Monday, March 8, as part of plans to ease lockdown restrictions. The government guidance states that residents can hold hands with their visitor but must not have closer contact, such as hugging. Visitors must receive a negative lateral flow test result on arrival, as well as donning PPE to reduce the risk of transmission. The guidance went on to say that visits should go ahead regardless of whether the resident and their visitor had had a Covid vaccine.
All residents at Encore have received the first dose of the Covid AstraZeneca vaccine as part of the rollout across the homes which include Fairmile Grange in Christchurch, Oakdale in Poole, Great Oaks in Bournemouth, and Hamble Heights in Fareham. As well as weekly Covid-19 tests for residents and staff, the team also use lateral flow testing which produces results within 30 minutes to help to pick up any asymptomatic cases.
Karen Denham was one of the first people to enter Great Oaks to visit her 90-year-old mum, Sheila Smith. She said: “It was very exciting as our last visit where we could sit together was the week before the first lockdown. I cried when I heard that I was going to be able to visit her and hold hands. My mum and I were both very pleased to see each other. Being able to have physical contact by holding hands during the visit was just something else.”
Mark Radcliffe was visiting his brother, Charles, at Great Oaks for the first time since October, when the visit was facilitated through the Visiting Lounge. He said: “It was lovely. It has been a long time coming. Degrees of intimacy don’t have to be very great, but it means so much. It was nice to know that I would be able to hold his hands.”
Residents can also be visited by additional members of their family and friends through Encore’s Visiting Lounges, which feature a floor-to-ceiling Perspex screen, intercom system and hearing loop, offering a safe and comfortable, dedicated place for face-to-face interaction.
Lindsay Rees, Director of Health and Care, said: “Our residents and relatives have endured much frustration and sadness in the last year as a result of the restrictions on visiting. Their patience, understanding, and resilience in these challenging times has been tremendous. I am delighted to be hearing and seeing the joyful reunions taking place in our care homes this week, and I am very grateful to the dedicated staff in our homes who are working so hard to make this happen.”