A group advocating for the rights of carers has called for urgent reforms to the guidelines surrounding care home visits.
During the pandemic, families were prevented from visiting their loved ones as the elderly were highly vulnerable to the virus.
Even when an individual was dying, relatives found themselves subject to tough restrictions and it was this that led Eimear FitzGerald to get involved in Care Champions.
In January 2021 - when lockdown restrictions were at their toughest - Eimear’s mother became gravely ill and, as her life ebbed away, Eimear was allowed only one 15 minute to be with her.
“Unfortunately, she was unresponsive,” she recalled to Moncrieff.
“She had been going in and out of a coma at that time and unfortunately for my 15 minutes she wasn’t even responsive.
“I was then informed that under no circumstances would I be getting anymore, that was it. That was the box ticked, I’d had my compassionate visit of 15 minutes and I would not be getting any more that week and not to even attempt to look for anymore.
“Unfortunately, Mammy died two days later.”
Compounding her grief and upset was that she felt the staff at the nursing home could have been a little bit more understanding.
“The person I was dealing with on that particular evening could have had a little bit more empathy about the situation,” she added.
Eimear’s situation is far from unique and she believes that the rules were far too strict and should have been more flexible when a loved one was dying.
“The idea that… extenuating circumstances would not have allowed for me or a member of the family to be with her as she actually passed is just so very difficult to deal with.”
While most restrictions came to an earlier this year in wider society, care homes have taken a more cautious approach.
“Many of our families are coming and telling us that… there are still restrictions, there are still restrictions on the timing,” she added.
“Some are still operating the type of diary and appointment system so that if the appointments are actually full it means whoever requests an appointment is not going to get one on a particular day.”
Main image: An elderly woman. Picture by: Alamy.com