Care Home visiting
People who live in care homes are often there for months or years, not just a few days. So social isolation from their family can have a huge impact on their wellbeing. As a result of the corona virus, NHS England has given guidance to care homes, initially to close to visitors and more recently to manage visits. Even when homes were closed, they were still able to arrange window visits, where the family member sees their relative through a window. With the loosening of the restrictions, it is now possible to have garden visits and in some cases conservatory or inside visits. Some care homes are also treating family like key workers and ensuring that they are tested weekly for corona. For homes that have a positive test for either a resident or care worker, NHS England is then closing that home for visitors and new residents and any variation from this requires the consent of NHS England currently.
So how is all these restrictions affecting residents and their families?
I am not aware yet of any research that has been done on this areas, but no doubt there will be some in the future, however anecdotally, I have heard that this is having a significant effect on the wellbeing of residents and is very stressful for their families.
I have heard from one care home that once they started family visits again, after only window visits, every marker of wellbeing for the residents improved. Sleep was better, food and fluid intake improved and behaviour improved, just to name a few! Clearly the residents had become very anxious about being isolated away from their families.
Of the clients that I deal with, who have not been able to visit their families, they are very worried about their wellbeing. I have one client, whose loved one has deteriorated during lockdown and the anxiety levels of the family member have meant that there have been occasions when they have had to take time off work, as they were unable to concentrate at their job.
The Corona Act has changed the way that care can be delivered, however what the Corona Act made clear was that nothing was to impact Human Rights legislation. The two aspects of Human Rights are Article 2 (right to life) and Article 8 (right to a private family life). The Courts have said that there shouldn’t be a priority list of rights, with the exception of Article 2, the right to life, as it is such a basic right.
This situation is therefore the balance between the two, for a home with no positive tests for corona, it is the balance of the risk to Article 2 against the balance of the certainty of a feeling of social isolation. The balance currently is weighing heavily towards Article 2 and I think that there needs to be a discussion about shifting that balance and taking account of the risks to wellbeing that impacting on Article 8 has. In other words, shifting the balance to the potential risk of life, that is probably low in a care home with no positive tests for corona, against the certainty that wellbeing is impacted on keeping people away from their loved ones.
I hope that the situation can improve.