Restrictions on nursing home visits will ease from next week

One person allowed see one resident once a week at Levels 3 and 4 under new rules

From Monday next, visits by one person to nursing home residents will be permitted on compassionate grounds. Photograph: iStock

From Monday next, visits by one person to nursing home residents will be permitted on compassionate grounds. Photograph: iStock

 

From Monday next, residents of nursing homes and other care facilities will be able to have one visit by one person per week.

New guidance from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) says the impact of visitor restrictions, on people whose homes are care facilities, should take into account major religious and cultural festivals, such as Christmas.

“Equal provision must be made for people from other traditions and belief systems,” it said.

It details the measures that should be implemented with regard to visiting people in care facilities at the five levels of the Government’s National Framework for Living with Covid-19, with more frequent visits allowed under Levels 1 and 2.

Under Levels 3, 4 and 5 it says general visiting should be suspended, except for critical and compassionate reasons.

However: “To promote wellbeing up to one visit by one person per week should be facilitated on compassionate grounds for those residents who wish to receive visitors when at levels . . . 3 and 4,” says the document.

From Tuesday, the entire country moves from Level 5 to Level 3 with some additional restrictions.

In circumstances where there is a return to Level 5, the document says: “Up to one visit by one person every two weeks should be facilitated on compassionate grounds for those residents who wish to receive visitors”.

However, in some disability settings where the risk is deemed to be lower, one visit by one person per week may be possible under Level 5. The one person per visit does not have to be the same person each visit, the document says.

Where residents express a preference not to receive visitors during the pandemic “it must be respected” but they should be checked back with regularly to ensure this is still their preference.

Welcoming the changes Minister of State for Older People Mary Butler said: “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.”

The announcement was welcomed by the Irish Hospice Foundation, which said it had written to the National Public Health Emergency Team urging it to look at visiting in nursing and care homes

The foundation’s chief executive Sharon Foley said: “Our work with nursing homes and residential care homes all over Ireland gave us a real insight into the distressing and difficult situations whereby families have been deeply worried and saddened by lack of visits to their elderly loved relatives.

“The change in visiting announced today means that the distress for both families and residents will be somewhat eased on the run up to Christmas and will begin to have a positive impact on the quality of life of those 25,000-plus residents.”