Prime Time’s Miriam O’Callaghan spoke to those affected by nursing home visiting restrictions in recent months.
Prime Time’s Miriam O’Callaghan spoke to both families and residents of nursing homes about what life has been like with the visiting restrictions in recent months.
There are more than 32,000 residents in just over 500 nursing homes in Ireland.
Since March, there have been restrictions on visiting to protect them from Covid-19. While the restrictions vary, indoor visits are not permitted under Levels 3 to 5, other than on compassionate grounds.
Guidelines issued yesterday by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre, however, state that, from 7 December, nursing homes are advised to adopt a more flexible interpretation of “critical and compassionate circumstances”.
As such, nursing homes should facilitate visits on compassionate grounds, even if a resident is not nearing the end of their life.
Under the new guidance, the HPSC said that one visit by one person per week should be facilitated for residents who wish to receive visitors at Levels 3 and 4.
Angela Coogan told RTÉ’s Prime Time that the ban on all nursing home visits was very difficult for her parents – especially her sociable father, George.
“His family meant everything to him,” Angela said. “So he would have had feelings of abandonment and not hearing, not seeing, not spending time.”
While George did not contract the virus, he passed away in April – something Angela attributes to his sense of isolation.
“He just got fed up. He just got, you know, he just had enough of it. And he just gave up and he gave up eating and gave up drinking and he just lost the will. That’s what it was,” she said.
“We feel that he died because of Covid. He didn’t have Covid, he didn’t get Covid, but he died because of the impact of Covid.”
Now Angela’s family are concerned about Nancy, her mother.
“There’s nobody there to play the music that she loves … with mom, it’s all about music as well, because she was a singer in her dad’s band in her twenties. That’s how my dad met her.”
Her family hold a phone in the window so Nancy can hear her favourite song.
“I just don’t want to see my mam declining and going down the same way that dad did. I really don’t. And I’ve a terrible fear of that happening.”
In September, geriatrician Prof Rónán Collins attracted a lot of attention when he told Prime Time what his patients were telling him – that a lot of older people felt like life was not worth living anymore.
Speaking to Prime Time this week, Prof Collins said that it was important to get the balance between protecting vulnerable people from infection – and ensuring that they have an appropriate quality of life.
Noting that the HSE and Department of Health had laid out an appropriate framework, he said that nobody in a nursing home should be denied visitation.