Back in March, many care and nursing homes went into lockdown due to the Coronovirus pandemic that swept the UK and the rest of the world. Families of elderly residents were unable to visit due to the risk of spreading the virus and have had the heartbreak of being away from their loved ones for months.
As time has passed, the coronovirus is still very much around in the community but the numbers of people being infected are much lower than earlier in the year. Testing and isolating those who become infected has helped to reduce the rates and much of life is continuing, if not quite as before.
Many care homes are now beginning to allow visits as staff have personal protective equipment and are regularly tested for the virus. Not all homes are open to visitors as this is a decision made by the local authority and management, but many are allowing visits in an outside area (if facilities allow) and with social distancing measures to keep everyone safe.
The Alzheimer’s Society lists useful guidance on how to go about planning your visit:
‘When the home says that you can visit, they will explain what you need to do.
The home should show you their general visiting policy. The home should also have - and agree with you - a visiting plan, which is part of the person’s individual care plan. The visiting plan should be person-centred – it should look at the risks to them from the virus as well as the risks to their wellbeing due to not having visitors.
For a person with dementia, especially if they have struggled with remote contact, a lack of direct visits may be worsening dementia and causing apathy, agitation and challenging behaviours. Talk to the home about the benefits to wellbeing that your visit could bring.
All care homes are different, so where visits are arranged the details will vary. However, visits will generally be allowed if anyone is nearing the end of their life.
The broad guidance is designed to permit visits but keep risks of infections as low as possible. It recommends that:
- you book in advance – so people don’t all visit at once. The care home will keep details of visitors to support the NHS test and trace service
- you avoid using public transport to visit, if possible – ask the home if this will cause you problems
- visitors are limited – if possible, just one named person to visit and the same person every time
- you wear protective covering. This may be:
- a face covering or basic mask
- face mask and gloves, similar to the PPE (personal protective equipment) staff will be wearing – if you are in close personal contact
- a see-through, full-face visor – if a face covering or mask would cause the person severe distress.
- you wash or sanitise your hands when you arrive and leave – staff will help with this.
Visitor restrictions in care homes have been distressing for many people across the country, but especially people affected by dementia. We explain the government’s visitor guidance in more detail and what it means for families with loved ones living with dementia in care homes.
Over the past few months, most care homes have worked out safer ways for you to speak with the person you care about. Depending on the home, its layout and the weather, you might be asked to:
- meet in a garden or outdoor space – where you can safely sit or walk two metres (three steps) apart
- catch up in a special visiting room – which is cleaned thoroughly between visits
- speak to the person from behind a see-through plastic screen – like those seen in supermarkets now
- meet in the person’s room – but go directly there and meet no other residents
- chat through an open ground-floor window or patio door
- have a ‘drive-through’ visit – where you talk through your open car window to the person sitting two metres away.
Your reunion may well be emotional. If it’s been a long time since they saw you – and if the person has memory problems, you may need to gently remind them who you are. Clothes, a hair style and perfume/aftershave that are more familiar to the person may help them remember you.
You may need to mention the virus to explain why you couldn’t visit before. Talking about earlier times you’ve enjoyed together may be a way of keeping the conversation more cheerful.
Don’t be surprised if the person’s dementia has got worse since you last saw them or if they seem low. They may improve with ongoing support, and their feelings for you remain, even if they seem hidden.
It’s natural to want to hold hands or have a hug or cuddle. Staff will advise but it will come down to the individual. This type of close personal interaction will sadly need to be kept brief, if at all.
Try to be flexible and work with everyone as best you can. Before you leave, arrange the next visit. This will give you and the person something to focus on and look forward to.’
For more information click on the link below:
To download the government guidance document click on the link below: