Wednesday, 30 September 2020

Homes take extra care in allowing visitors to return

Homes take extra care in allowing visitors to return

CARE homes have welcomed back friends and family members for visits.

Relatives have not been able to see their loved ones close up since March when the coronavirus lockdown was brought in to help prevent the spread of covid-19.

Now homes have started offering outdoor visits at a socially safe distance, which have to be arranged in advance. There are also strict rules about how many people from one household can visit and how long they can stay for.

The Government has advised that visits should be limited to one constant visitor per resident if possible.

Acacia Lodge, a 55-bed care home in Quebec Road, Henley, is offering outdoor visits with friends and family having to book hourly slots for the garden area.

Manager Thelma Clutson said: “These have been going on since the end of June and they have been really successful.

“Families are making appointments and we have been taking advantage of the good weather. We can do two or three visits per hour.

“The residents and their families are taking our measures on board and some of them have been utilising it two or three times a week. A member of staff brings the relative down.

“I know the Government has relaxed some of the guidelines with regard to care home visiting but when I spoke to the relatives, they were all in agreement that perhaps it is a bit too soon and we should continue what we have been doing while the summer months are here.”

The home, which has 80 staff, has had no cases of coronavirus.

It is recommending between three and four visitors per resident. They are asked to give contact information and sign a declaration to confirm that they do not have any symptoms. Social distancing must be observed at all times and there is hand sanitiser available.

Mrs Clutson said: “Sometimes, someone living with dementia might get a little bit confused by bigger groups but some families are making different appointments to visit in smaller groups. It really depends on their individual circumstances and what relatives are doing in their own lives.

“For people who are in the latter stages of life, we have made exceptions for them to see their loved ones, who are asked to wear PPE and are temperature-checked before being escorted to the room.

“A resident seeing their grandchild gives them so much joy and that is what it is all about.

“It is hard not letting people come into the home but we are all in a similar situation where we have loved ones that we haven’t been able to hug for a long time. It is important the residents and relatives are able to see each other. You don’t want to undo any of the hard work and it is very important to keep the vulnerable safe.”

Henley Manor in Mill Lane, has been offering outdoor visits via a booking system since July 3.

General manager Liz Clements said: “Currently two people at a time can visit their loved one for the duration of 45 minutes to allow us time to effectively clean the area in-between visits.

“To ensure everyone’s safety, all visitors have to fill out a health declaration form, have their temperature checked, sanitise their hands and wear PPE. 

“Face-to-face contact is incredibly important and it has meant so much to the families to be able to physically see their loved ones again.”

The home, which is part of the Hallmark Care Homes Group, has had no cases of covid-19.

Mrs Clements said: “We are testing the team weekly and the residents regularly. All team members also have their temperature checked prior to starting each shift and are constantly wearing PPE.

“We are applying the principle of social distancing, providing ongoing covid-19 training to the team and undergoing strict handwashing and cleaning procedures to ensure everyone’s safety.”

Lashbrook House in Mill Road, Shiplake, and The Mount in School Hill, Wargrave, which are both part of the Majesticare group, are also only allowing outdoor visits for the time being.

Only two people from one household can visit and they must be at least 14 years old. Each home has a designated visit co-ordinator to arrange visits safely while also providing virtual visits by video for family members who live further away.

Majesticare spokeswoman Saskia Binns said: “We are very strict and following the guidance issued by Public Health England. We are actually going above and beyond in terms of how safe we are keeping everyone.

“We offer garden visits but they can also be done as window visits. Health assessments are done prior to anybody visiting and everyone has to go through strict health tests.

“We have been doing video calls for quite a while now and these are all co-ordinated by one person. We are not going to open the doors for the foreseeable future and it is of paramount importance to keep everyone as protected and safe as possible.

“Everybody understands the protocols and procedures. We have worked very hard and we need to keep moving through this.”

Majesticare is also preparing for the winter months by converting a room at each home into a dedicated visitor room. This will feature a glass panel and there will be a walkway directly into the room to avoid unnecessary contact.

Ms Binns added: “It is about future thinking and being able to keep people connected whatever the future may bring.

“At Lashbrook, we have started our construction work and it is really exciting to see the investment that is being made. We also have air purifiers in all our care homes.

“It is so lovely to be able to have relatives back in person because it is so important to the residents.”

Goring Care Homes has two residential homes called The Grange and Lyndhurst. Each has a dedicated bedroom for visitors with patio doors leading to an outdoor area. These are divided in half with a glass wall, so friends and family can visit safely.

Aaron Northey-Stevens, service manager, said: “We’ve been doing this for a few weeks now and with success. It means that relatives can have private time together, without a staff member watching over them. Also, as many people can visit as they like rather than being limited to one person, as per Government rules.

“We have a resident here who has nine children and how would you pick just the one? With our system you can open it up to more visitors.”

At Thamesfield in Wargrave Road, Henley, all non-essential routine visits were stopped on March 12 but now the rules have been relaxed to allow visits either outdoors or through a window.

A spokesman for the HC-One group, which operates the home, said: “Throughout this pandemic, we have been doing everything we can to prevent the transmission of covid-19 in our homes and protect our residents from the virus.

“This decision was not taken lightly but we felt it was in the best interests of keeping our residents and colleagues safe. Compassionate visits were allowed during this period for residents on end-of-life care, where PPE was provided to the family and the applicable government guidance adhered to.

“We provided Thamesfield with several tablets so that residents could keep in touch with loved ones via video and telephone calls and our colleagues worked hard to find ways to keep residents entertained, engaged and connected with their families and each other during this time.

“Following changes to the government guidance, we have been delighted to ease the restrictions on our homes on a case-by-case basis. This means we have been able to allow socially distant outdoor visits and window visits at Thamesfield.

“This is an important step in allowing our residents to see their loved ones but, of course, our residents’ wellbeing must always be the top priority.”

The Abbeycrest Care Home in Kennylands Road, Sonning Common, is allowing visitors into the garden.

A Caring Homes group spokesman said: “We have been delighted to welcome visitors back into the grounds of our home to see their loved ones.

“Relatives have been asked to pre-arrange their visits, with only one family member visiting at a time, so we can safely stagger visits and ensure social distancing.

“Visitors must undertake a health screening assessment, including temperature and oxygen saturate levels checks upon arrival. Visitors are also required to wear protective clothing, including a disposable mask and gloves, which is provided by the home.

“At this time, no visitors are allowed to enter the home. In line with government guidance, we hope to be able to welcome a limited number of visitors into the home again soon.”

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