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