Emotional times as visitors set to see loved ones in city’s care homes after 2-step testing process
After months of only being able to see and hear loved ones through windows at care homes visitors will now be able to visit, in person, inside the home.
From Monday (21 December) in Manchester, visits will be able to happen in person as long as the visitor is well and has had two negative Covid tests beforehand, and wears PPE during their time in the home.
The measures are designed to reunite loved ones in safe way – while protecting everyone else in the home and its staff.
People will need to book in for a swab test 3 days before their planned visit by going online or ringing 119. If that test is negative they can then take the result to the home on the day of the visit where they will be asked to have a second test – a Lateral Flow Test – which is also a swab test. This test then puts the swab into a liquid which is poured onto a test device and can give a result within 20-30 minutes.
In most cases this test will be done at the care home. However, those homes who are not able to do it will be able to direct visitors to a dedicated testing site.
Councillor Bev Craig, Executive Member for Adult, Health and Wellbeing at Manchester City Council, welcomed the news: “That physical divide from loved ones has been torture for many people and there is now a way to change that. I’ve heard from care home residents and their families over the pandemic and I know how hard it has been.
“Our care homes across the city have done their utmost over the last 10 months to keep residents as well and as safe as possible – and as a city we are indebted to them for that dedication.
“In Manchester we wanted to make sure we got the right balance between keeping people safe from Covid and recognising the detrimental impact of not seeing loved ones, that’s why we’ve come up with a much safer system of 2 negative tests before visiting.
“A lot of planning now needs to go into the visits, with these steps around testing – and we thank families in advance for their understanding of that while they are understandably eager to see loved ones.
“To families eager to visit I would say that the detail and all the safety mechanisms are there to help everyone – and we must protect from that physical risk while having that much wanted and highly emotional reunion. Until the vaccination has been rolled out, we must all still play our part.”
One, such visitor will be Marie Spencer whose Mum, Pat, is in EachStep care home in Blackley. Maria says she is ‘over the moon' to be able to see her Mum, but also 'wants to take all the precautions needed to keep everyone safe.'
This is Maria’s account of the toll that being parted from her Mum has brought:
Maria Spencer, 49, from Blackley says the worst day of her life was when she had to put her Mum, who is 83 and has Alzheimer’s Disease in a care home on January 13 this year.
Little did she know that the following months would bring further separation with the advent of the first lockdown and then local restrictions that meant Maria could no longer visit inside the home – apart from interim periods where garden visits were allowed.
Maria, who is very happy with the care at Eachstep – was only able to do window visits to see her Mum, where she stands on one side with her mobile and her Mum is on the other helped by a carer to use a phone.
Maria's mum, Pat.
“I remember that last visit in person in March, as clear as day. At that stage we had no idea what the next 9 months would hold.
"We had a lovely chat and there were lots of other families there too. It felt normal and right.
"Everyone knows what has happened since with lockdowns and different restrictions –and I understand the reasons for it. But surely there must be more we can do about visiting? - the price of that divide is too high.
"I’m lucky that I have total faith in the home, which is exceptional and its staff. But, all I can do is have window visits with my Mum – who often hits the mute button by accident while we are talking as she doesn’t understand the technology. The reality of standing outside on a phone is that it’s often dark, cold and wet and difficult to hear – and even though I’m so glad to be able to see her- I always leave feeling sad and that it's not enough.
"It might seem odd – but It’s the little things, like not seeing her fingernails, hands –or feet or being able to talk about her having a haircut that leave you feeling bereft. But even greater than that is the feeling of just wanting to hold her hand again or give her a hug.
"That has an effect on my kids too. Previously they could be in the home and everyone made a fuss of them too as part of the visit. They loved it too and it gave them a lift while they missed their Grandma.
"My Dad died very suddenly before my Mum went into the home and every night I look at the picture of them both by my bed and ask him to look out for my Mum.
"My Mum will be 84 in January – and I know time isn’t on my side. The thought that she could go any minute before I can even give her a hug again is just too much to take.
"I can’t tell you how much I want to go to Greggs, buy her cakes and get some tea and just sit down with her again.
"Safety of course, is a huge issue for everyone. But quality of life also counts.
"I don’t want to feel like being on the other side of a barricade looking in. And more than that, I’d get to hear her laugh again.”
Maria and her daughters.