OMAGH care homes are open to exploring the introduction of the Care Partner Schemes as visiting restrictions take their toil on families.
In November, heartbroken and frustrated families gathered for a peaceful protest against rules around visiting restrictions at care homes which keep them from their loved ones.
The families have been supported by CHASNI (Care Home Advice and Support NI), which is lobbying the Department of Health (DoH) to end the lack of access to family members in care homes introduced in March at the start of the outbreak.
Guidance issued by the DOH advised that care homes needed to move towards a Care Partner Scheme by November 5, which would enable one family member to go into a care home setting using PPE.
Denise Keegan, Head of Older People’s Services for PCI’s Council for Social Witness, which has management responsibility for Harold McCauley House in Omagh said they are currently exploring introducing the scheme to the home.
Ms Keegan said, “It is only a natural human response to want to visit your loved one, but I think that there has been some confusion around the Scheme itself.
“While we are looking at the Scheme on a home-by-home basis with individual Health and Social Care Trusts, it is not simply an additional way for a family member to visit a loved one.
“A care partner is a family member or friend whose pre-existing relationship and the things they did with, or for that resident, prior to restricted visiting arrangements, are an essential element to maintaining the resident’s health and wellbeing.
“It is a voluntary role, which is complimentary to care home staff, not a replacement for them. We want the best for those we care for and where appropriate we will certainly consider the Scheme,” Denise said.
Clara Robinson, nurse manager of Springlawn House in Omagh says that the safety and health of residents has been the priority from the beginning and the introduction of the scheme ‘could be looked at in the near future.’
She continued, “The main priority at present is the safety and the well-being of our clients. However we are still offering booked visiting-in guidance with our Covid policy – for families to see their loved ones.”
Since the pandemic began, care homes across the county have been battling to keep Covid19 out of their facilities and have been using technology to help them stay in touch with their loved ones.
Sharon Colhoun from Knockmoyle Lodge dementia care home outside Omagh said the introduction of technlogy has been vital for residents and families who cannot visit.
Ms Colhoun said, “The families and friends of our residents have all respected and followed these guidelines and we have succeeded, to date, in protecting all of our residents from Covid-19.
“So the families have given us huge support because they know and understand that our priority is to protect the life and health of their loved ones.
“In turn, we keep the lines of communication open via arranged visits, Facebook, phone and Facetime conversations and they really appreciate this,” said Mrs Colhoun.