Fury as care homes lock the elderly in their rooms alone for two weeks after overnight hospital stay meaning they are ‘punished for seeking medical treatment’
- Campaigners say it is ‘discriminatory and unlawful’ to treat elderly differently
- Many of UK’s 400,000 care home residents are still struggling to see loved ones
- Alzheimer’s Society said residents have to choose between vital medical care and seeing family members
Care home residents are being ‘falsely imprisoned’ as the rest of Britain regains freedom, campaigners warn.
Government guidance states that residents must be locked alone in their rooms for two weeks after an overnight stay in hospital.
This means elderly patients are ‘punished for seeking medical treatment’, with some refusing to attend vital hospital check-ups to avoid isolation.
People in care who spend a night in an NHS hospital must quarantine for longer than a traveller flying back from a red-list country.
Campaigners say it is ‘discriminatory and unlawful’ to treat care home residents differently to every other member of society.
In one case, a 99-year-old woman lost the ability to move after being shut away for six separate 14-day isolation periods.
Government guidelines also state visitors should be banned for two weeks if any staff or residents test positive for Covid
Meanwhile, draconian visiting restrictions mean many of the UK’s 400,000 care home residents are still struggling to see loved ones.
Since ‘Freedom Day’ on Monday, residents have been allowed unlimited visitors as long as they test negative and wear PPE.
But infection-control procedures mean the best most families can hope for is a pre-booked 30-minute visit once a week. Some have the time measured by an egg-timer.
Government guidelines also state visitors should be banned for two weeks if any staff or residents test positive for Covid.
With cases rising, growing numbers of homes are once again shutting their doors.
Diane Mayhew, from Rights For Residents, said: ‘There has been no “Freedom Day” for the thousands of care home residents who remain incarcerated in their rooms.
Will Tom see family for his 100th?
Tom Wilkinson with his daughter Judy Bass
Tom Wilkinson has spent months looking forward to celebrating his 100th birthday with his family.
But he now faces the prospect of spending it alone.
Mr Wilkinson, 99, has dementia and has lived in a care home in Harrogate for nearly two years.
Before lockdown, his daughter Judy Bass would pop in every day to see him. But during the first year of the pandemic, she saw him just twice.
When the care home finally reopened to visitors in March, Mrs Bass could see her father once a week but only if she pre-booked an appointment.
Now, she can’t even do that after the home shut to all visitors on Monday for two weeks following a case of coronavirus.
Mrs Bass, 65, pictured, said: ‘It is the false hope that really upsets me. He has been so looking forward to his birthday – it is on August 17 and whenever we see him he asks how long it is until his birthday. It will be awful if we can’t do anything.’
‘With cases rising in the community, care homes are going back into lockdown and shutting out visitors.
‘People living in care homes are paying the price for everyone else’s freedom. We are worried things will end up at back square one.’
Since March, residents have had the right to an ‘essential caregiver’ – a friend or relative who can visit throughout lockdown or isolation.
But nearly six in ten relatives who have asked to become an essential care giver have had their request refused, according to a survey by Rights For Residents.
Four in ten relatives said they could visit only once a week and 65 per cent said their visits were 30 minutes or less.
The requirement to isolate after hospital stays was not lifted on ‘Freedom Day’ and applies even if residents are double-jabbed and test negative.
Charities say some residents are putting off medical appointments and cancelling elective care because they cannot face being imprisoned in their room for two weeks.
The mandatory isolation period also severely damages residents’ physical rehabilitation after a hospital stay following a fall or procedure.
The Alzheimer’s Society said people in care were having to choose between vital medical care and seeing loved ones.
Caroline Abrahams, of Age UK, said: ‘It is completely unacceptable that an older person who needs hospital treatment should be discouraged or unable to receive it.
‘To square this difficult circle, we think NHS England and the Government should look at ways of bringing the hospital treatment a care home resident may need to them in the care home.
‘Even with infections rising we would like Public Health England to look again at whether the 14-day isolation period could safely be reduced.’
The isolation period is longer than the ten-day hotel quarantine required for those flying in from a red-list country.
And Britons have to isolate for only ten days if they test positive.
Julia Jones, from dementia rights organisation John’s Campaign, said: ‘If you come out of an NHS hospital to go into an English care home you are stuffed into a little room and treated as more toxic than if you’ve come from a red-list country.
‘The Government’s assumption that people in care homes can be treated differently from the rest of society is discriminatory and unlawful.’
The Department of Health and Social Care said: ‘We understand contact with family and friends is central to the health and wellbeing of care home residents, and we are doing everything we can to support care providers to allow this to happen safely as restrictions are cautiously eased.’