Residents of nursing homes in England can begin to track down a loved one, the government has said as it releases new guidance.
Visits will resume at nursing homes once local authorities and local public health directors say it is safe.
Residents will be limited to seeing the same visitor, to the extent possible, according to advice.
Some providers began allowing social distancing outdoor tours in June, in the absence of government guidelines.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said it was now possible to “carefully and safely” authorize visits to care homes, while taking into account “local knowledge and the circumstances of each home. of care “.
People accommodated in approved care facilities and those in retirement homes for people with learning, mental health or other disabilities in England will also be able to welcome visitors under the same management.
The government has said visits could resume after the rate of community transmission of the coronavirus falls, but staff, residents and visitors should follow its guidelines to minimize the risk of the virus spreading.
He says health care providers should consider whether visits could take place outdoors, without people having to pass through a common building, and that visitors should stick to social distancing advice and avoid hugs or handshakes.
Ad hoc visits should be discouraged and providers should collect contact details from visitors to support NHS Test and Trace, the guide says.
Visitors should also be encouraged to wear a face mask and risk assessments should be carried out before homes reopen.
Gifts intended for residents should be easy to clean by staff in care facilities. “They are unlikely to be able to bring flowers, but a box of chocolates that could be disinfected with wipes would be allowed,” the guide said.
Care England, the country’s largest representative body for independent adult social care providers, said it was “disappointed” that the advice came so late.
Professor Martin Green, Managing Director, said: “This advice should have been provided to healthcare providers last month.
“We don’t understand why the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs cannot act quickly in a crisis or why it remains deaf to comments and contributions from the sector. ”
It comes as the UK has recorded the deaths of 79 other people who have tested positive for the coronavirus, bringing the total number of deaths to 45,501.
‘Mom needs comfort and affection’
Lesley Lightfoot says not being able to be with her mother Blumah, who has Parkinson’s dementia, during the lockdown was “the most painful thing I’ve ever been through.”
For months, she stood outside her mother’s care home in north London, speaking to her through a downstairs window. In recent weeks, the house has allowed a few outside visits.
But Ms Lightfoot wants to know if the latest guidelines mean she will be able to see her mother inside.
“Being able to see her outside does not solve my problem. I need to come in and be with her in her room, ”she said, adding that her mother’s mental state has deteriorated with the confinement in confinement. “She needs comfort, love, affection, to look at things with her, to go through things with her. ”
The government has said it will be up to personal care homes, working with public health officials, to decide whether visits can take place in people’s rooms.
In Scotland, visits to virus-free homes resumed earlier this month. In Wales open-air visits are permitted and in Northern Ireland one person can visit a resident, with a second person accommodated “if possible”.
Sue Parker from Ovingham, Northumberland, who has a 29-year-old son with autism and obsessive-compulsive disorder, welcomed the advice but said it would not help in her case as it is not possible to visit her son in his nursing home.
She explained that he would not tolerate family members visiting his nursing home and would only agree to leave with his family – which he did most weekends before the pandemic.
“It seems like all the time has been a one-size-fits-all general policy [for social care], with a focus on the elderly and frail, ”she said, adding that the new directions seemed“ out of proportion ”to her son, given that he is young and in good physical condition.
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