Visiting rules ‘do not match daily life’
The home, Nova House, in Seaford, East Sussex, is currently on its second lockdown in a month after positive cases were identified. Mr Smith’s mother, Tina, 86, is spending 24 hours a day in her room and her mental health has started to decline, he said.
“At the beginning, she seemed quite good,” Mr Smith said. But now when he visits, “she’s slouched in her chair, looking at the telly”.
Mrs Smith eats more when in the company of others and enjoying family meals, he added.
“[But] what I’m noticing is she eats in her room, on her own… so I think her weight is going down. She looks like she’s physically shrinking to me.”
Tony Gaitskell, the care home manager, said that current visiting rules “do not match daily life” and enforcing them has been “heartbreaking”.
He told The Telegraph: “When our second outbreak recently happened, our team found itself in the very difficult position of applying rules and advice which restricts residents’ freedoms in ways the general public no longer experience.
“We hope the forthcoming guidance for living with Covid in care comes will resolve this situation, which is not only unfair to our residents, but increasingly negative for their wellbeing.”
‘Care homes have been totally left behind’
Helen Wildbore, the director of the Residents and Relatives Association, said its helpline has had regular reports of families being unable to take gifts into homes due to “quarantine” rules.
UKHSA guidance previously advised not to take flowers to homes as they could not be “disinfected”, Ms Wildbore said, but “these cases feel like a hangover from a much earlier version of the guidance”.
It is “astonishing” the rules around care home lockdowns are yet to be changed, she said.
“It’s incredibly frustrating that we are in this position now where all the restrictions have been lifted in the community. The Prime Minister’s telling us ‘we’ve got to live with Covid’, but what does that mean for care settings? They’ve just been totally left behind,” she added.
Reports of homes being kept in “perpetual lockdowns” as Covid cases remain high in the community are now routine, she said.
This week, Norfolk County Council said that two-fifths of care homes in the area were experiencing an outbreak, with 145 recorded.
‘Time to open up homes’
Mike Padgham, the chairman of the Independent Care Group, said it was time to “open up” homes and give residents a “better quality of life”.
“Providers would like to be able to remove the restrictions as soon as possible, because it’s been a long pandemic and, particularly on a day like Mother’s Day, you want people to meet face to face,” he said.
“I think now is the time to open up and balance the risks. Otherwise, we might find that we’re locked down for the rest of the year.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said that new guidance will be published for care settings “by April 1”.
They added: “We’ve worked to safeguard care homes and their residents throughout the pandemic. Outbreak management has been long used to prevent illnesses such as flu and norovirus in social care, and continues to be a well-established way of keeping people safe.”