Nursing home visits resume: ‘Speaking through the phone just wasn’t the same’

The manner in which facilities reopened to visits varies from place to place

Loveday Quinn (75) sat inside the reception area of the Belmont House nursing home in Stillorgan, Dublin on Monday afternoon.

“Is Noel here yet?” she quietly asked the staff as she rested in an armchair, looking around her. “He’ll be here soon,” she was told.

Just before 3:30pm, Noel and his son Simon arrived and took a seat on the balcony. They had excited smiles on their faces as they looked through the window to where Mrs Quinn was sitting.

One of the workers handed her a phone, which had already been connected through to Mr Quinn’s mobile, and the pair were able to speak to each other, although only through the windows to protect the facility’s residents from coronavirus


"You look smashing," Mr Quinn told his wife. He held up a copy of Hello magazine through the window and she raised her arms in response.

From Monday, nursing home visits were allowed to resume as part of the Government’s roadmap to reopening the country following the coronavirus pandemic. However, the manner in which nursing homes reopened to visits depends on the individual facility.

Belmont House has allowed window visits to take place since May 26th, to raise the spirits of the residents and their families, but family members are not allowed to enter the premises. The facility in Stillorgan hopes to resume normal visits after June 28th.

They operate 30-minute window visits, and for residents who are unable to hold a phone for the duration of the social call, an iPad is placed beside them so they can hear their loved ones through the speaker.

Health officials issued general advice to all residential care facilities, stating that each resident should have only two named visitors, each visit being for a maximum of 30 minutes, one visit per person per week being allowed, and children under 16 years are asked not to attend.

Mr Quinn used to visit his wife everyday prior to the coronavirus pandemic, and while he could continue to ring her daily, not being able to see her was what he missed the most. She has lived in the facility for the past year-and-a-half.

“I am very much looking forward to being able to sit down with her,” he said. “We brought a cake up for her birthday on June 6th and we sang her Happy Birthday through the window. But I still can’t give her a hug and a kiss.”

He and his son told Mrs Quinn stories about her grandchildren, friends and relatives, showing her pictures and videos, while she smiled along.

Mrs Quinn, who has had a series of health issues in recent years, tested positive for the virus during the peak of the pandemic, although she was asymptomatic throughout.

While this increased family member’s fears about not being able to see her, they said the staff at the facility constantly contacted them with updates.

Her son said it had been a “very difficult few months”, adding that not being able to see his mother for two months was upsetting and that it seemed “much longer”.

“Isolation has been hard,” he said. “Speaking through the phone just wasn’t the same, she doesn’t want to stay on the phone. She’s not a phone person anyway, so the phonecalls only last a few minutes.”

Father and son both welcomed the fact that they can now see her in person, but are still missing that physical connection.

“In a way, you can’t wait to give your mum a hug or a kiss,” her son added.

It appeared Mrs Quinn felt the same, as just before their visit came to a conclusion, she grew upset and asked her husband to come inside the centre to her.

He looked at her sadly, before replying: “I can’t come into you, sweetheart, because of the Covid.”