Changes to guidance around visiting nursing homes, which come into effect today, mean that children may now be able to visit their grandparents for the first time in months.
The new guidance from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) says that indoor visiting for residents in residential care facilities where there is no ongoing Covid-19 outbreak should be encouraged and should be normalised as soon as is practical, but with appropriate practical precautions to manage the risk of introduction of Covid-19.
Visits by a child to a residential care facility may be facilitated if the child is accompanied by an adult who takes responsibility for ensuring appropriate conduct and the child is able to comply with the general requirements for visiting, it states.
The HPSC says the duration of the visits may be limited to an hour with some flexibility on compassionate grounds in exceptional circumstances and visitors should generally be limited to two per resident at a time.
Visitors will be required to wear a cloth-face covering or a surgical mask during the visit, it says but adds that some flexibility is required in relation to the needs of the resident and visitor when they are together at a safe distance from others.
In circumstances where there is an ongoing outbreak of Covid-19 within a facility, it is recommended that visits will generally be suspended in the first instance with some exceptions.
The changes have been welcomed by the Minister for Mental Health and Older People Mary Butler TD.
Minister Butler said: “I’ve listened to the views of many families and I recognise that the impact of COVID-19 on society in general and especially those living in nursing homes has been considerable. We must remember that residential settings are people’s homes as well as places where health and social care are provided. The introduction of physical distancing, isolation and restricted contact with family and loved ones has changed the usual dynamic of social interaction. I understand the need to protect residents, staff and visitors to nursing homes and I am confident that nursing homes are preparing the way to allow for visiting in a safe way. I hope these latest public health guidelines developed by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre help nursing homes, residents and their families.”