Joy as nursing home residents soon to see grandchildren and great-grandchildren

Staff at Plunkett Home in Boyle, Co Roscommon welcome easing of restrictions

 Bridget Cassidy (94) receives a visit from her daughter Angela, who is fully vaccinated and travelled from Wexford to the Plunkett Home in  Boyle,  Co Roscommon. Photograph:  Brian Farrell/The Irish Times

Bridget Cassidy (94) receives a visit from her daughter Angela, who is fully vaccinated and travelled from Wexford to the Plunkett Home in Boyle, Co Roscommon. Photograph: Brian Farrell/The Irish Times

 

The sound of children’s voices in nursing homes throughout the country is set to mark another key milestone in the lightening of the Covid-19 burden for many families.

At the Plunkett Home in Boyle, Co Roscommon on Tuesday, staff said many residents were elated as the visitors’ log filled up, because of the new rules easing restrictions on visitors.

Paula Dowd from Ballaghaderreen didn’t have to think twice when asked what the changes would mean for her 84-year-old mother, Veronica, who can now have four visits a week with more than one relative at a time.

She is close to all her grandchildren. She used to mind them after school throughout the years so was never a stranger to any of them

“She will very soon get to meet her first great-grandchild, Sofia, who was born in March,” said Paula, one of eight children.

Veronica, a native of Rathcroghan near Tulsk, has also missed seeing her 16 grandchildren, apart from on video calls or during the odd “window visit” over the past 12 months.

“She is close to all her grandchildren. She used to mind them after school throughout the years so was never a stranger to any of them,” explained Paula.

It has been a tough year for Paula and her siblings as their father Michael (89), also a resident of the Plunkett Home, died suddenly there in February.

“They were married for nearly 62 years so spent most of their lives together, and it was great for us to know that they were here together, and that they were safe and well looked after during the pandemic,” said Paula.

She’s not sure if her mother realises that her husband is no longer there.

‘Relief’

“She knows something is missing but she might not realise it’s him. In a way that’s a relief for us but it’s also very sad.”

Another resident, Bridget Cassidy from Knockarush, Boyle, who is 97 and “sharp as a tack”, was also looking forward to meeting some of the younger members of her family.

Bridget is the matriarch of five generations. The mother of 11 now has four great-great-grandchildren. Her daughter Angela has been doing a 600km round trip to visit Bridget every week since lockdown began, and is thrilled that next weekend she can bring her son Darby Power to see his granny for the first time in a year.

Veronica Dowd greets her daughter Paula at the Plunkett Home in Boyle, Co Roscommon. Photograph: Brian Farrell/The Irish Times
Veronica Dowd greets her daughter Paula at the Plunkett Home in Boyle, Co Roscommon. Photograph: Brian Farrell/The Irish Times

On her latest visit on Tuesday Angela explained the logistics of making the weekly journey from Wexford at a time when restaurants and public toilets on the route are all closed.

“There is one place on the way for a toilet break. I bring my own food with me and have it in the car but I am lucky to be able to do it,” she said.

Bridget, who has her vaccination certificate hanging over her bed, said “thank God” she and all the other residents had escaped the virus.

As she joked about the possibility of having her photograph photoshopped for the newspaper, Angela said the family were thankful for the care her mother had received since moving into the facility in January 2020.

Great boost

“Lockdown happened very quickly after that, so it was a baptism of fire because she was just adjusting,” said Angela. She said the relaxation of rules around visitors would be a great boost for her mother, a longtime Labour Party supporter who now favours the Social Democrats, and who keeps up with current affairs on her radio.

It’s great to be able to relax the environment – but we will still monitor everyone coming in for symptoms and insist on hand hygiene and face masks

“This is going to make a big difference because she is so alert and engaged,” said Angela,who even at the height of lockdown was allowed compassionate visits to her mother, wearing full PPE, because Bridget is in palliative care.

“We have been so lucky as the staff are so rigorous and so careful of the residents and of each other,” she stressed.

Dr Mary Butler, director of nursing in the Plunkett Home, said the staff and 28 residents were very happy that the atmosphere will be more welcoming now for family visits.

She is relieved no case of Covid-19 has been recorded there and that staff and residents are all vaccinated.

“Staff really made a big effort to keep everyone Covid-free and it’s great to be able to relax the environment – but we will still monitor everyone coming in for symptoms and insist on hand hygiene and face masks,” she said.

Deirdre Harrington, another senior staff member, said residents were elated at the thought of increased visits and being able to see more than one relative at a time.

“Some found the video calls difficult and they were putting the phones to their ears instead of looking at them, but others embraced it,” she said. “It’s great that one day won’t be running into the next from now on. Everyone needs something to look forward to,” she said.