Care home visitor restrictions in wake of rising Omicron cases

Care home residents are about to once again face restrictions in the number of visitors they can have.  Only three named visitors and one essential caregiver visitor will be allowed from Wednesday 15 December.  Given that there is no official ‘lockdown’ for the rest of the country at present, these new restrictions have been criticised by charities and care trade associations, since the rest of society is free to largely socialise without restrictions.

During previous lockdowns, restrictions on visits to care home residents caused significant and irreversible deterioration in many residents’ symptoms, in particular for the elderly suffering with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Video calling is of course an option to keep in touch but this doesn’t really work for an elderly person who lacks cognition.  Whilst care home residents are of course vulnerable to COVID-19 and it is important to protect them, new restrictions coming into place this week once again raise the question of whether restricting visits by their families and friends could be a breach of the Human Rights Act by curtailing the right to family life.

We also know that not all care providers have been applying the recommended visiting government guidance (which is about to change). There has been significant publicity regarding family members who still have difficulty seeing their loved ones at all or for very short periods of time.

The Alzheimer’s Society has highlighted this week that a quarter of care home residents have not received their COVID-19 booster jabs, despite this being promised by 1 November. 

There is clearly a difficult balance to be struck between protecting the vulnerable members of our population and ensuring care residents can retain contact with their loved ones.   It remains to be seen whether any families or residents will take further steps to fight these visiting restrictions.

Jennifer Johnston, Associate, BLM

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