Care home residents enjoy freedom for the first time since the start of the pandemic

Residents of a Chorley care home who hadn't even seen the street outside for more than a year because of the Covid-19 pandemic were finally able to experience freedom this morning.

Wednesday, 5th May 2021, 3:45 pm

Elderly residents of care homes, some of the most vulnerable to the Covid-19 virus, are finally being given the chance to enjoy new freedoms as Government guidance relaxes.

They are now able to look at more than just the same four walls and enjoy walks around a park or visits to a loved one's garden.

From yesterday, May 4, all care home residents were able to participate in more out-of-home visits without the need to isolate on their return.

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Marjorie with Pam, on an outdoor walk at Highcliffe, Chorley

And Residents at Highcliffe Residential Home in Chorley were able to get out for the first time since March last year and enjoy the sunshine this morning.

The pensioners sat and chatted, appearing in high spirits as they enjoyed a trip out with their senior carers.

Christine Wilkes, Manager of Highcliffe said that residents and their families have been involved in every decision they have made regarding the official guidance, over what she described as a "difficult and challenging" 12 months.

She said: "Every time the guidance has changed, we have put it forward to the residents and their families and asked what they were comfortable with. It has been very much led by them, as it is their home and we want them to experience as much normality as possible.

Mildred and Bill with their puppy Pugsley enjoy the outdoors following a change in guidance

"We have been thrilled with how the trips out have worked so far, there has been such a positive response from our residents and we can see that in their general wellbeing and mental stability.

"We can now start taking residents out for walks and taking them to the park. This morning they were thrilled, and we only took them around the block but their smiles were amazing to see.

"Some of our residents had moved during the pandemic and hadn't even seen the neighbourhood and streets around the home since they moved. It was almost like they were dropped off and isolated, so they were just thrilled to be getting outside and seeing the area."

As part of the new guidance, residents will be able to leave their care homes to visit a friend or family member’s garden, or go on walks in places such as parks, public gardens and beaches.

Residents Tom and Maria enjoy the outdoors at Highcliffe

Residents must be accompanied by either a care worker, or nominated visitor, and follow the government guidelines of washing hands regularly, keeping social distance, and remaining outside, in line with the second part of the roadmap out of lockdown.

Highcliffe care home, on Preston Road, has 24 residents and has stayed up-to-date with the ever-changing Government guidance, offering pod visits from behind a screen, garden visits and more recently, in-person visits from one allocated family member.

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Manager Christine added: "The indoor visits have also been going really well, we have seen such an amazing change in our residents. It was intimidating for us all at first because we had been used to being in a bubble and vigilant, but it gave our residents a chance to see loved ones again.

For many, it is the first time they have been outside in over a year

"This is giving us hope that we are starting to return back to normality again. It has been important to us that our residents have been able to spend time with their loved ones wherever possible, who are we to stop that?

"We were confident we could put all risk assessments in place to keep people safe and have succeeded right up until now. We have to start moving forward now - it has been a really tough and challenging year for this industry and we have seen the devastating effects it has had on families."

The changes come as the data shows cases continuing to fall, meaning it is now much safer for care home residents, who are among the most vulnerable to COVID-19, to leave their homes, but outdoor visits will ensure any risk is minimised as much as possible.

Minister for Care, Helen Whately said: "I know residents and their families have found the restrictions on trips out of care homes incredibly difficult. This is one more step towards getting back to normal while protecting care homes from the continued risk of COVID-19.

"As part of this interim update before the next stage of the roadmap, care home residents will be able to leave to spend time outdoors.

"I know this has been long awaited for those who haven’t had a chance to enjoy trips out. I look forward to encouraging more visiting and trips out in future as we turn the tide on this cruel virus."

Visits out of the care home should take place solely outdoors, except for the use of toilet facilities, with no visits to indoor spaces and avoiding the use of public transport where possible.

As part of the roadmap out of lockdown, guidance was updated on April 12 for care homes to increase visiting, and allow up to two nominated visitors per resident, along with babies and infants.

Chief Nurse for Adult Social Care, Professor Deborah Sturdy, said: "The pandemic has been so incredibly challenging for those living in care homes, and our social care workforce have done a heroic job of keeping their residents safe and supported.

"I know this change to the guidance will be hugely welcomed by many and give so many the chance to safely leave their home."

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