How can we make nursing home visits safe?

The government must to do ‘everything possible’ to find a way to allow for safe visitation to nursing homes.  They need to mobilise financial supports and expertise to explore all the potential ways of allowing people to visit their elderly relatives.

Residential care facilities need the full attention of the government in this extremely challenging time to make this possible in a safe way.

I welcome the fact that the HSE has said it will issue updated guidelines this week. We need compassionate provision for visitors.

Many elderly people have experienced extraordinary levels of loneliness and isolation. This has been a heart-breaking consequence of the lockdown. And, of course, this needs to be balanced against the severe risks that this disease poses to the elderly in our society.

We need to be creative in how we approach this. The question cannot be simply – ‘Should there be visits?’. We need to ask ‘How can we make visits safe?’

We see in England and Wales different initiatives to try and find ways around the devastating isolation experienced by many elderly people.

We have seen the Welsh Government announce £3m for care homes to install temporary “pods” for Christmas visits. There will also be a pilot scheme to give care home visitors 20-minute Covid-19 tests starting next week.

Christmas can be a lonely time for many people, not least those isolated in nursing homes.

They need to be able to see loved ones in a safe way. Whether this is a limited number of visitors following strict procedures like the staff working in these facilities or rapid tests or pods being trialled elsewhere, a solution needs to be found.