Express & Star comment: Time to bring the smiles back to care homes

A key priority in this miserable coronavirus crisis should be to ensure old people in care homes are given their loved ones back.

Portrait of happy grandmother and daughter embracing each other
Portrait of happy grandmother and daughter embracing each other

For months they have been cut off. While everybody else has had temporary lockdowns, they have endured a permanent lockdown, and until now their voices have hardly been heard.

The knowledge that it is well meaning and for their own protection does not diminish the pain and isolation of being separated from family, nor the anguish of those who are denied the opportunity of seeing them.

Protecting life has come at the cost of taking away some quality of life. Crushing morale is a health risk as, despite the best efforts of staff, being old, lonely, and isolated may make residents feel they have less to live for.

So a trial scheme which seeks to renew a degree of interaction between residents and their loved ones is attracting a lot of interest. It is a nationwide initiative, but among those taking part is a home on the outskirts of Wolverhampton. Basically it involves visitors going through a number of hoops to ensure they can safely help care for residents who are most in need of extra support.

Family members can brush their hair, hold their hands, and help them with daily activities.

Testing with a quick turnaround of results is also promising to play a key part in gradually relaxing the isolation of those in care homes by making possible safe visits.

The government was heavily criticised for creating the conditions for a pandemic disaster in care homes at the start of the crisis, so you can understand why it has veered the other way and is now extremely cautious about lifting the various safeguards.

As a consequence it is under fire for being too slow to create the conditions in which residents' lives and loneliness can be eased.

You feel for all those who are affected and are so helpless in an upsetting situation.

While there has been some good news which gives a sense that at last the tide may be turning, those in care homes should not be kept waiting, and in the name of compassion, work to create conditions for safe visiting needs to be speeded up.

It is time to bring the smiles back into care homes.

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