UK Groups Want Rights for Care-home Visitors During COVID-19 Pandemic

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by Mary Chapman |

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A coalition of dementia organizations is calling on the U.K. government to help care-home residents maintain physical contact with loved ones during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Called One Dementia Voice, the coalition acknowledges the difficulties of balancing the risk of COVID-19 against the potential harm done by isolation. However, it is seeking to have the government make it mandatory for care homes to support residents’ relationships with family and friends in accordance with each resident’s individual choice.

The group, comprising eight dementia-related organizations in the United Kingdom, contends that while the government’s Health and Social Care Act makes it mandatory for care-home residents to have access to medical care and choice of food, there is no such mandate to allow visitations.

“It is both simple and urgently necessary to correct this glaring omission and ensure that people’s most profound and personal life choices are respected,” the coalition stated in a press release.

Care-home policies have been inconsistent or unclear throughout the pandemic as actions were taken to protect residents, according to the coalition.

“As the rest of the country returns to normal, the lives of too many care home residents remain severely restricted without due consultation or consent,” the organization added. “Meaningful contact with loved ones can still too often be left to chance and the degree of variation in the process is completely unacceptable. We have heard varying accounts when it comes to access, such as a thirty-minute visit once a week right through to some residents without having access to family and friends at all.”

While some care homes have acted with “compassion and wisdom” throughout the pandemic, balancing risks presented by COVID-19 against the negative effects of patient isolation, “others have struggled to do the same,” the coalition stated.

In May, the Joint Committee on Human Rights, a parliamentary body, recommended that the maintenance of essential relationships according to individual choice be supported by statute for person-centered care.

“The devastating effect of the pandemic has shone a light on what was already a crisis in the making,” One Dementia Voice stated. “The people who live in care homes are our fellow-citizens and we insist that the government should take responsibility for protecting their fundamental rights and well-being.”

Coalition members include the Alzheimer’s Society, John’s Campaign, the Lewy Body Society, Rare Dementia Support, TIDE, the Young Dementia Network, Innovations in Dementia, and Dementia UK.