Scots care home restrictions eased to allow for hugs and hand holding

Care home residents and their families will be able to hold hands and even hug under guidelines expected to be announced by the Scottish Government this week.

Monday, 5th October 2020, 7:00 am

The move follows an emotional campaign by relatives who raised fears about the mental health impact on their elderly loved ones of months of Covid-19 physical restrictions,

Health Secretary Jeane Freemen is set to unveil new regulations for care home visits after meeting campaigners at the weekend in an attempt to strike a more “compassionate” balance between suppressing the virus and keeping elderly people in touch with their families.

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Thousands of care home residents have been isolated for months in an effort to stop the spread of coronavirus, which has killed thousands of vulnerable elderly people. Government guidelines saw families restricted to speaking through closed windows or staying socially distanced from their loved ones outdoors.

However, Cathie Russell, of the Care Home Residents Scotland group, revealed on Saturday that after meeting Ms Freeman, progress had been made in reaching a solution.

On Twitter she said: “Positive meeting with Jeane Freeman today. New care home guidance will allow visits in residents own room for longer and designated visitors can hold hands and hug loved one. Caveats - praying Covid rates don’t keep increasing and care homes willing to implement. More compassionate.”

She later added: “We had a positive meeting and I can confirm that some of our key requests are to be written into the guidance. Jeane Freeman told us that, from next week, homes that have been Covid-19 free for 28 days and meet other existing criteria on staff testing will be able to implement the new guidelines.

“We can say to them that the nominated visitor of the resident, or their back up, should be able to visit more often and for up to four hours in the resident’s own room.

“The importance of touch would be emphasised and the designated visitor or their replacement will be able to sit and have tea in the resident’s own room, hug and hold hands and be without a chaperone. This definition would be widened and homes encouraged to be more generous in how essential visiting is applied.

“We still have a long way to go and, for many families in lockdown areas, little is likely to change in the short term but this is still very good news.”

A government spokesperson said that Ms Freeman would outline what the new measures will entail later this week. On Twitter Ms Freeman said, in response to Ms Russell: “My thanks to all of you for your time and to our senior advisers for their determination to help us find a better balance.”

Dr Donald Macaskill, the head of Scotland’s care home industry, has warned the mental and physical toll of the restrictions could have as big an impact as coronavirus itself on Scotland’s care home population and Nicola Sturgeon has also previously expressed her concern about the issue.

She said: “Among a whole series of tough decisions that governments everywhere are having to take right now, the decisions on that issue are probably the toughest.”

Scottish Labour’s social care spokesperson Monica Lennon said: “It may seem like a small thing but the act of a hug from a son, daughter, husband or wife can make an immeasurable difference. Relatives of care home residents have made their voices loud and clear – and Scottish Labour has championed them in Parliament. This victory is testament to their determination and tenacity.”

Scottish Tory health spokesman Donald Cameron said the relaxation on visiting restrictions was “a very welcome boost for families” and were “a major step forward in 
restoring everyday human contact”.

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