'This is another important step towards normality': Elderly care home residents can now be reunited with up to FIVE loved ones
Residents who have struggled without their families through the pandemic living in care homes can now be visited by up to five people as of yesterday, May 17.
And for many, they will be able to physically touch their grandchildren after spending over a year with their hands up to a glass screen.
The restrictions on visitor numbers are being relaxed as part of the next steps in the Coronavirus Roadmap out of lockdown, giving care home residents the opportunity to spend time with people they haven't seen in over a year.
The daily limit of two visitors for each resident will remain however, this does still not apply to young children or to anyone who is classed as an essential caregiver under the government's scheme.
This follows a reduction in COVID-19 cases and the ongoing successful vaccine rollout with 95 per cent of older care home residents receiving their first jab.
These changes follow other relaxations that were brought in earlier this month, allowing residents to go outside to safe places such as parks, gardens, other day centres or education services without having to self-isolate on their return.
Christine Wilkes, Manager of Chorley's Highcliffe Care Home is among those welcoming the relaxation in guidance and said it will be 'heartwarming' to see residents reunited with little ones in their family.
She told the Post: "The biggest and most positive change for us this time is that the new guidance means children can be one of the nominated visitors. A lot of our residents have really missed their grandchildren, so it is great that they will finally be able to see eachother again.
"Of course more visitors increases our risk, but it is sticking to the same principles we had before and our staff will continue to do all they can to keep residents safe.
"We are still offering a booking system and will be speaking to residents this week about who they want to nominate and will then base visitors around when are staff can monitor the visits safely.
"We expect to see more demand for visiting slots but families have so far been incredibly understanding in working with us. The reason we do this job is to look after the people in our home and that includes taking more on board to be able to support our residents.
"A lot of our residents have more than one child, so at first it was incredibly hard for them to choose which family members could come in the home. So the change in guidance will mean they can have contact with other loved ones they haven't seen for such a long time."
The number of days that visits must be stopped following outbreaks has also changed, with visits be paused for 14 days instead of the previous 28 days.
But all visitors will still have to follow robust safety guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus, such as wearing PPE having a negative Covid-19 test result and booking visits beforehand.
Jo Fogg, Director of Clinical Quality and Governance for LNM Healthcare, which manages Finney House and Hulton House in Preston, said: "Whilst there is central Government guidance, the local authorities also have their own interpretations of the guidance so we have to be very careful in making sure we are following the correct guidelines and keeping residents safe.
"We do not want the frequencies of visits to change because many of our homes have a lot of residents, but we will be offering people to rotate their nominated visitors each time so our residents who have been starved of emotional and social relationships for so long can continue having weekly visits from different family members.
"We understand that the relatives just want to get out and see their loved ones, but we still have to be mindful that we are operating within the restrictions. For us and our staff, when you think of the difficult circumstances of the past year, we empathise with the need for residents to maintain meaningful relationships with people they care about because we have all been separated from loved ones during the pandemic.
"Any of the visits we have permitted into our homes we have believed to be very low risk and at this moment in time, we can manage and mitigate those risks to support our residents in having their visits and spending time with family.
"This change in guidance feels really positive and it feels as though the easement of restrictions seems to be moving with a degree of speed now. We will always be naturally cautious after the past year and follow the local and government guidance to keep staff and residents safe but it feels like we are heading in the right direction."
County Councillor Graham Gooch, acting cabinet member for adult services, welcomed the change in guidance but urged people to continue following the guidelines safely.
He said: "This is very welcome news for residents in care homes across Lancashire and their families. This pandemic has been extremely hard for them as friends and family typically have been unable to see each other for such a long time.
"The fact that more people can now visit will mean so much as people have the chance to catch-up, share memories and hold hands with friends and family for the first time in months.
"We still have to be mindful of the need to prevent the spread of the virus. People must follow guidelines such as wearing PPE, booking their visit with their care provider beforehand and ensuring they have tested negative for Covid-19 before their visit.
"However, this is another important step towards normality for so many people across our county."
Minister for Care, Helen Whately said: "The measures we have taken during this pandemic have always been to protect our most vulnerable, but I have heard first-hand from those living and working in care homes how difficult the restrictions have been.
"Thanks to the phenomenal success of the vaccine rollout and a reduction in cases across the country, I am pleased we can now take another step towards getting back to normal, while protecting those in care homes from the continued risk of COVID-19.
"The new guidance allows more family and friends to reunite and reduces the need to self-isolate, which I know many have found incredibly challenging. As we turn the tide on this cruel virus I want to make visiting as normal as possible by the summer, and this is an important step on that path."
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