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last resort Families of nursing home residents considering legal action over 'ban' on window visits

Majella Beattie from advocacy group Care Champions said families are talking to human rights solicitors as a "last resort" after repeated attempts to get access to loved ones.

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RELATIVES of nursing home residents are considering legal action over the denial of so-called window visits by some operators of long-term care facilities.

Window visiting is where a visitor stands outside and speaks to a resident at safe distance through an open window or by telephone.

Majella Beattie from advocacy group Care Champions said families are talking to human rights solicitors as a "last resort" after repeated attempts to get access to loved ones.

"Window visits are permitted under all levels of lockdown," she said.

"But we have been inundated with reports from families that they are not getting this access.

"We have a number of people who are going down the legal route as a last resort.

"They have begged, pleaded and protested and they have no other option."

It is understood that several families are consulting lawyers with a view to starting legal proceedings on behalf of residents who are allegedly being denied visits.

Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) guidelines permit outdoor and window visits at every level of Covid-19 restrictions.

Ms Beattie said families had become frustrated by the disregard for the public health guidance over visits and said dialogue with some nursing homes had been very poor.

"The biggest issue is that a lot of the nursing homes do not know the guidance," she said. "We have relatives fighting for window visits and if they get one the window is closed, the person inside can't hear and they are getting distressed.

"The window is permitted to be open as per the guidelines.

"This is a massive issue and we know from talking to families that this is extremely traumatic."

Ms Beattie said there was a communication problem with nursing homes and said families were struggling to get information.

"They are standing outside banging on windows," she continued.

"Inside, the staff are overrun and they aren't able to give them information.

"Some residents are end-of-life and the families are not getting proper updates.

"By the time they get in, the person no longer knows who they are.

"A lot of people in nursing homes have an elderly husband or an elderly wife at home and they are deteriorating through lack of contact."

Sage, a support and advocacy charity, said it has been receiving a lot of calls from family members about nursing home visits and window visits.

"Window visits are a very poor substitute for the real thing but they are definitely better than nothing," said Sarah Lennon from Sage.

"We're very aware that some nursing homes have just imposed a blanket ban on window visiting, which is clearly not in the spirit of the HSE/HPSC guidelines.

"We understand there is significant pressure on staff and there may be reasons and risks associated with it, but that is clearly not being communicated to the families who contact us."

It is "causing stress" and "conflict with the nursing home", she said.

"These kind of blanket bans aren't giving the resident choice about when they see their family members."


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