Huge welcome for changes to nursing home visiting guidelines - now in effect

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Nursing home residents and their loved ones will be able to enjoy a much-missed physical connection

Nursing home residents are now allowed up to one visitor per week.

The last nine months have been a challenging, lonely and anxious time for nursing home residents and their loved ones. This change to New Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) guidelines has been widely welcomed. 

Under the new guidelines which came into effect on Monday morning, one visit from one person per week is allowed under Level 3 and Level 4 restrictions.

Should there be a return to Level 5 restrictions, visits will still be allowed but will be reduced to one visit from one person every two weeks.

The new guidelines are expected to make a huge difference to the emotional well-being of nursing home residents. For much of the last year, visitors have only been able to go to the nursing home window so this personal contact is a big step forward.

In the guidance publication, it is acknowledged that cultural or religious festivals such as Christmas are significant for residents and their families. It notes that every practical effort should be made to accommodate an additional visit on compassionate grounds during such periods.

Minister for Mental Health and Older People, Mary Butler, TD said: “As we have sadly learned, Covid-19 can have a particularly serious impact on older people and those who are medically vulnerable. Managing this risk requires vigilance and a range of public health measures as we try to strike the balance between the necessary protective public health measures and the mental health and wellbeing of residents and their family and friends.  

“I thank the HPSC for its commitment to re-examine the importance of guidance, such as visiting guidance for nursing homes and other residential care services, on a regular basis.

 “While unfortunately the risk posed by Covid-19 means that we will all have to celebrate Christmas in a different way this year, the new visiting guidance identifies further opportunity for managed social interaction and residents receiving visits from family. In doing so, as noted in the guidance, we must continue to have the protection and safety of all residents at the forefront of our considerations.

“It is important that we recognise the challenges faced by nursing home staff throughout the pandemic and acknowledge their work to care for and keep safe the residents under their care, as they try to balance the range of needs of residents and the required protective measures.

“I again request that all nursing home providers make every practical effort to facilitate visiting in a safe way in line with this important new guidance during the Christmas period and beyond. Communication and a collaborative approach is key and I also ask providers to review communication processes, so as to ensure that they communicate with residents and families in a timely and detailed way with regard to visiting arrangements.

“Acknowledging the difficult year this has been for families, I ask that families work in a positive and as flexible a way as possible with the staff of the nursing home that you plan to visit, to ensure the safety of all of the residents and staff of that nursing home.”

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