New agony for 400,000 elderly in care homes as family visits are axed yet again amid new Covid-19 lockdown
- Close contact with family members is once again an impossibility for those in care homes after new restrictions were announced on Monday
- Visits can still go ahead through screens, pods and windows, guidance advised
- Campaigners warn many people in care face a whole year without a meaningful visit from their families, including those with a short time left to live
Hundreds of thousands of care home residents face heartbreak after visits were banned across England again.
Close contact with family members has been forbidden under the new lockdown rules in a ‘terrible blow’ for the 400,000 people living in care homes.
Visits can still go ahead – but only through screens, pods and windows, according to Government guidance published on Monday.
Campaigners warned this means many families face going a whole year without a meaningful visit with their relatives in care, many of whom have only weeks or months left to live.
Seven in ten care home residents have dementia and many relatives fear that by the time they finally see their loved ones again, they will have forgotten who they are.
Following a major Daily Mail campaign, those in care homes were once again allowed to hug and hold hands with visitors in December – as long as they had tested negative for Covid.
But all close contact visits will now be forbidden under the rules – which were already in place in Tier Four areas.
Hundreds of thousands of care home residents face heartbreak after visits were banned across England again. Close contact with family members has been forbidden under the new lockdown rules in a ‘terrible blow’ for the 400,000 people living in care homes. Pictured: Karen Hastings visits her stepfather Gordon, who suffers from dementia, at the Langholme Care Home in Falmouth on November 28, 2020
Vic Rayner, executive director of the National Care Forum, which represents not-for-profit providers, said: ‘The move away from close-contact visits is a terrible blow. However it is very important and positive that visiting remains firmly on the agenda, and homes across the country will be working hard with loved ones to ensure, wherever possible, visits can continue.’
Fiona Carragher, director of research and influencing at the Alzheimer’s Society, said many residents have still not been able to properly see their loved ones since March.
The charity is calling for the Government to ‘act with compassion’ and prioritise the safe continuation of meaningful visits.
She said: ‘After a dreadful year for people with dementia, worst hit by the virus, we are still having to stress that mental health plays as much of a role in people’s survival as physical. Contact with their families isn’t just for comfort but fundamental to their care – and most important of all, their reason for living.’
Shielding has been reintroduced under the new measures announced this week
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said the new lockdown ‘has put an end to face-to-face visiting for now, unless mediated through a screen or window or in a ‘pod’ of some kind. On the one hand it’s good that the Government hasn’t imposed a blanket ban on visiting as it did in March 2020, but on the other we know that many care home residents will be unable to benefit from these more distanced methods.’
The Prime Minister has promised that all elderly care home residents – who are top of the priority list – will be vaccinated by mid-February.
But thousands of disabled younger adults in care homes are not on the list, meaning there is ‘no end in sight’ to their parents’ nightmare.
Charities including Mencap are calling for all care residents, including young adults with learning disabilities, to have the jab as soon as possible.
The Government’s priority list does not include younger adults with learning disabilities or autism, despite Public Health England data showing they are up to six times more likely to die from Covid-19.