Keeping in touch with people living in care

This story was published 30 October 2020

From November 1, residential and nursing homes in North Yorkshire will re-open for visiting in person.

A lady in a care home using a tablet

Providing that each care home runs visits in a Covid-safe way, aligned with our guidance, a designated visitor for each resident will be allowed to visit in person, subject to a set of guidelines and keeping to the rules on hygiene, physical distancing and protective equipment.

In homes where there are outbreaks, however, current restrictions need to remain in place, for the safety of all residents.

In September, we issued advice to care providers across the county to stop in-person visits to combat rising infection rates in the community increasing the risks to care home residents.

Public Health and adult social care teams have been working closely with care providers and health colleagues for the last few months to understand the risks of the second wave of Covid-19 – and how people can remain safe now and throughout the winter.

This includes daily contact with care homes across North Yorkshire and a weekly meeting for all care providers to share experiences and ideas.

The rise in infection rates across the community is still deeply concerning and although North Yorkshire is at, or just below, the national average, there is a need to balance care home residents keeping in touch with family and friends with keeping people safe from Covid-19.

Not being able to have visits to relatives in care homes on a long-term basis also causes distress and affects the physical and mental wellbeing of care home residents.

Throughout October, a task group consisting of younger and older people who live in care, parents and children of people who live in care, dementia advocates and care providers came together to share with the us how the restrictions on visiting affected them and to develop ideas as to how these issues could be addressed.

You can read more about the recommendations by the task group on keeping in touch with loved ones on our visiting care homes during coronavirus page.

Richard Webb, Corporate Director for Health and Adult Services, said: “I would like to thank the task group for sharing their experiences and recommendations – their work has been invaluable and will help many people in the county in the weeks and months to come. 

“We will be working through all the recommendations: some can be adopted immediately and others will need some further work to ensure they can be implemented well.

“It’s also worth noting that, although North Yorkshire is currently still in Tier 1, if part, or all, of the county move into a higher level of restrictions at any point, then decisions about visiting may be beyond our control. However, I have already alerted Public Health England that we would like to see a more flexible approach to care home keeping in touch arrangements than the current Level 2 and Level 3 restrictions allow.

“I would encourage us all as a community to do all we can to keep the transmission rates down. Preventing the spread of the virus, helps us all and, in particular, people who live in care. So, let’s all try to minimise the number of people we all mix with, especially at home. And please remember that “hands, face, space” makes a big difference: hand washing, wearing face coverings and  maintaining social distancing over two metres.”

The government’s updated policies for visiting arrangements in care homes are available to view here.

Case study

Lynsey Stronach was part of this task group and she has explained her experiences of having a loved one in care.

Her dad Gerard Stronach went into a care home in April after living in Selby.

Lynsey and her family haven’t been able to see where her dad lives yet, which adds an added layer to the anxiety they feel around the situation.

She said: “Originally he was going to go in for a two week respite, but we knew he might end up staying.

“He was wandering all the time and my mum was worried she couldn’t keep him safe.

“At first the home was locked down and we had visits through the window – the first few times I saw him he was so upset and angry.

“He couldn’t understand what was happening, we had to go away and come back and visit in a socially distanced way with the door open instead which helped. 

The staff were extremely reassuring and supportive, as they knew how heartbreaking it was for us to see him like this whilst also trying to adapt ourselves to life without dad at home. 

“Through the summer we could visit in the garden which was fine and worked, but since the second wave we’ve had to go back to window visits.

“It’s incredibly difficult because often we are the ones who would be able to calm him down when he’s unsettled but we cannot go can’t go inside the home or have any physical contact with him. 

“He does grasp some aspects of Covid-19 but doesn’t understand why he can’t give his wife and his children a hug or a kiss.

“He doesn’t have capacity and that makes it harder as he just can’t understand why.

“It’s difficult for everyone, the care homes, the care providers, staff, family… it’s unchartered territory and things keep changing so fast.

“The task force has helped me feel like my voice has been heard on the matter however, and I think that communicating around these issues is key.”