Please let me hug my family before it's too late!
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After thirteen long and torturous months many of those living in care settings are still not allowed to hug those they love or enjoy a visit outdoors to enjoy the Spring sunshine. Even more shocking, many are still denied meaningful visits with their families.
My name is Jenny. My mum Jean lives in a care home and has advanced Alzheimer's Dementia. The lack of contact during the pandemic left her feeling like a prisoner although she's committed no crime. Through the months of isolation mum's physical and mental health deteriorated dramatically and she’s now a shadow of her former self. This is distressing for mum - and like thousands of others - her family have spent months grieving for someone that's still alive.
When care homes closed their doors last Spring families expected it to be a temporary solution, as we didn't have the protection of PPE, tests and vaccines. Despite now having all of these infection control tools Public Health England and many care home owners continue to view relatives solely as a source of potential infection, ignoring the huge benefits they bring to the well being of their loved ones. What kind of Government allows a situation to continue in which people are being kept alive simply to exist? For those at the end of life the quality of that life is as important as the quantity of life and as care home residents have now been fully vaccinated the risks are minimal.
The Government have provided a clear roadmap for every other member of society and yet those in care are completely absent from this plan. People are now meeting in groups of six, mixing households, visiting hair salons, beauty salons, gyms, shops restaurants, pubs, coffee shops and even meeting in large numbers for indoor and outdoor sports events. No such freedoms have been granted to those living in care homes and this appalling breach of human rights continues.
Many care homes continue to defy Government guidelines and instead have imposed blanket visiting policies that limits one family member to a meaningless 30 minute visit once a week, fortnight or every three weeks. In some cases where families have challenged a visiting policy they have been asked to move their loved one to another home. These evictions are potentially life threatening as the risks of moving vulnerable residents can lead to transfer trauma, particularly in those living with Dementia.
Rights For Residents are calling on the Government to adopt the emergency legislation proposed by the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights that would ensure every resident has access to an Essential Care Giver that is seen as an extension of the paid care team. Family members are not "just" visitors, they offer an essential component of care that has been removed during the pandemic. No matter how wonderful care staff are they can not provide the emotional support that can only come from a family member as we are the eyes, ears, voices and memories of our loved ones.
From children separated from their parents, to young adults and the elderly their distress is unimaginable. The majority of residents are living with conditions that prevent them from understanding what is happening and why. They feel confused and abandoned.
According to the CQC 128,000 care home residents died in the period 17/04/20 to 23/04/2021. Of those 28,942 were related to Covid. However, all 128,000 died having spent their last months, weeks and days alone. Families who have lost loved ones after months of enforced separation have been left with an unbearable legacy of guilt as they were unable to comfort them at the end. We must give people legal rights that prevent this from happening again.
In response to a huge campaign, that created a media and public outcry, the Government finally produced guidelines that are a step in the right direction. Care homes can now allow two nominated visitors in addition to an Essential Care Giver, that can continue to visit and provide care even during outbreaks. However, as the guidance is advisory only, many care homes are opting to ignore it with absolutely no consequences. They are refusing vulnerable residents their right to have a loved one designated an essential care giver which the Government has recognised as being vital to their mental and physical health.
The postcode lottery in which some are allowed visits and others are denied must end. In order to end this inequality we're calling on the Government to take the following urgent action before more lives are lost through loneliness and isolation:
- Pass emergency legislation that enshrines the right of an Essential Care Giver in law to provide emotional and well being support, regardless of outbreaks, tier restrictions, lockdowns or future variants.
- Mandate the Care Home Visiting Guidance with clear penalties for those that refuse to follow it.
- Remove the unnecessary 28 day quarantine period for care home residents following an outbreak - in line with the ten day requirement for the rest of the population.
Charities have highlighted the thousands of excess deaths resulting from loneliness and separation, as people simply give up the will to live, without stimulation and the comfort of family contact. Many are exercising the only choice they have left, which is to stop eating and drinking. Politicians from ALL parties have a responsibility to stem the tide of premature deaths. Don't wait till this atrocity becomes too big to ignore and then call for a public inquiry. Act now, save lives and do "whatever it takes" to avoid another Tsunami of care home fatalities.
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