A coalition of organisations has written to local health and care leaders for a second time, calling on them to end harmful isolation practices and to help promote the rights of people in care.
Organisations representing both care providers and residents expressed sadness and disappointment at having to write again about the detrimental impact isolation from family and friends is having on people living in care.
The letter highlights the serious challenges people face in accessing vital support from loved ones during COVID outbreaks. It seeks to address a barrier to visiting many are facing when local health teams impose restrictions beyond those in the Government guidance. The letter calls on local health and care teams to fulfil their legal duties, including respect for the right to family life.
The joint action is an initiative of the campaign group Rights for Residents, the charity Relatives & Residents Association and academic Dr Caroline Emmer De Albuquerque Green of King’s College London.
Jenny Morrison, co-founder of Rights for Residents, said:
“The voices of care home residents, young and old, are still not being heard. In the midst of an outbreak, when many are confined to their own small rooms, it’s vital that our loved ones feel the reassurance, love and support from their closest family members and friends. Limiting their contact to just one constant family member contravenes government advice and denies vulnerable residents the same rights as those in the wider society.
Decision makers that limit visits to one named visitor should consider how they would feel if faced with the dilemma of choosing only one family member, that could visit them at their greatest time of need, many of whom are at the very end of life. People need to be kept safe and that includes protecting their mental health and well-being, as loneliness and isolation have led to many giving up the will to live.”
Helen Wildbore, director of the Relatives & Residents Association, said:
“Whilst life has gone back to normal for the rest of the country, people living in care have been left behind. Too many are still facing harmful restrictions on their daily lives, all in the name of ‘protection’ and ‘public health’, without recognition of the damage of isolation. Two and half years on and we still haven’t learnt the most basic lesson from this pandemic: without the support of loved ones, people’s mental and physical health suffers greatly. Undervaluing this support is dehumanising not only for the person living in care, but also for their friends and relatives.
Older people are still paying a heavy price for the failings in the early stages of the pandemic as risk-averse approaches have become deeply embedded. Public health teams must urgently step back to see the bigger picture of this public health crisis and comply with their legal duties to protect wider health and wellbeing.”
Dr Caroline Emmer De Albuquerque Green of King’s College London said:
“People living in care homes have a right to social participation and a right to a family life. It is tragic that despite all the evidence that highlights the importance of contact between residents and their families and friends there is still a situation in which residents are denied their rights. Lessons should have been learned by now with the guidance clearly stating that no one should have to choose only one person to have this essential contact with.”