National lockdown: Can you visit relatives in a care home?
VISITING relatives inside care homes in England has been banned as part of the third coronavirus lockdown.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson last night revealed a fresh wave of restrictions as cases of Covid-19 continue to rise.
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New guidance set out by the government states that visits to care homes can only take place with "substantial screens, visiting pods, or behind windows".
Guidance also states that close-contact indoor visits are no allowed and if an outbreak of Covid is detected at a home – then no visits will be permitted in any form.
If residents of a care home are on a day trip or a visit out, they will not be able to meet people in doors, for example at a family home.
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Experts have warned that the guidance is a "terrible blow" for residents and families alike.
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 for residents across the country.
"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.
"When we emerge from this lockdown it is imperative that we put care home residents' needs at the top of our priority list and ensure meaningful visits can resume."
Throughout the coronavirus pandemic care homes have been at the forefront, with many residents being some of the most vulnerable people in society.
While many residents are now receiving coronavirus vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford/AstraZeneca, they are still extremely vulnerable.
Before the third national lockdown was announced, care homes in areas with lower transmission rates had been given access to rapid result Covid tests – which had enabled some to have close-contact visits.
People wanting to visit their relatives in care homes have been advised to check the government's guidance online.
It highlights that visiting is an "essential part of life" for residents in care homes, but says that a balance needs to be struck between wellbeing and health.
The guidance states: "Each care home is unique in its physical layout, surrounding environment and facilities.
"Residents vary in their needs, health and current wellbeing. Care home managers are best placed to decide how visits should happen in their own setting in a way that meets the needs of their residents both individually and collectively.
"The individual resident, their views, their needs and wellbeing should be considered for decisions about visiting, while recognising that the care home will need to consider the wellbeing of other residents as well."
In light of the third national lockdown, charities have asked the government to act with "compassion" when it comes to the rules around in person visiting.
Fiona Carragher, director of research and influencing at the Alzheimer's Society said many people still haven't been able to hug their loved ones, which in turn she says has had an impact on mental health and wellbeing.
She said that in person visits play as much as a physical role as a mental role for residents.
"The large majority of people in care homes with dementia do not have time on their side.
"Contact with their families isn't just for comfort but fundamental to their care – and most important of all, their reason for living", she said.
Ms Carragher added that the government "must do everything it can" to keep people in care homes safe.
She continued: "They must act with compassion to prioritise meaningful visits continuing in a safe way, allowing residents to have the one thing that matters most to them in their final days."
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