A campaign seeking to lift what they say are “callous” restrictions on nursing home visits say that older people are “dying with broken hearts” because of the isolation and loneliness brought about by the Covid lockdown. 

The campaign group, Care Champions say that they have launched the ‘2*2*2 initiative’ seeking a change to regulations so that two people can visit an elderly person, twice a week over the Christmas period and beyond.

“Residents of nursing homes have had their lives turned upside down since the beginning of Covid 19. For many, the fear is not necessarily catching Covid 19, but the reality of continued and damaging loneliness, leaving family with concerns that their loved one are dying with broken hearts.”

“While carers and nursing teams are working extraordinarily hard to try and support their residents, for which we are very grateful, the deprivation of contact with loved ones and family members is extraordinarily distressing,” spokeswoman Majella Beattie said.

“We acknowledge wholeheartedly the seriousness of Covid 19. However, nine months on, the effects of the lockdown are severe and are harming our older family members. ”

The campaign says that older people have said they would “prefer to see their family over any risk, as  life is not worth living” under the strict restrictions. They welcomed a statement from the Irish Association of Social Workers (IASW) , which called for the government to make funds available as a matter of urgency to ensure safe visiting spaces for care centres. The IASW noted that, in contrast to other European countries, the Irish Government has selected the lowest possible level of visiting arrangements with the lowest number of people and has failed to fund any capital expenditure to develop safer visiting spaces, despite the known negative impact of visiting restrictions on the physical, mental, social and emotional well- being of residents”.

Majella Beattie said that elderly people and their families were being ignored. “We need to be heard, they need to be heard. What is happening in our nursing homes, and the exclusion of family is nothing short of callousness and a scandal. Just like recent scandals from our past, this will be the scandal of the future. We have an opportunity to change that now,”she said.

“The  2x2x2 campaign has spent time looking at risk assessing family contact, and to minimise the risk we’re asking that  2 family members can visit twice a week with just one person per visit taking all precautions the same as the nursing home staff,” they said.

“We are willing to be tested, to wear PPE so we can spend quality time individually with our  loved ones. Providing safe visitation should be a priority for the government – as should the right of all residents in care homes to have input in their own personal care plan, and choices in their own lives. This too has been taken away.”

Last week, RTE’s Prime Time heard from families who said their elderly parents had died not with Covid, but because of the isolation brought about by the lockdown.

“After all, we love them and understand them and are the voice of our loved ones,” the 2x2x2 campaign said.