ALONE, the organisation which supports older people has responded to the Nursing Home Report released today, stating that more needs to be done to protect vulnerable older people in residential care from coming into contact with COVID-19. ALONE have put forward a series of recommendations to safeguard older people and ensure that their needs are met in the event of a second wave of COVID-19.
In a press briefing earlier today, the COVID-19 Nursing Homes Expert Panel outlined recommendations that should be implemented to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in nursing homes, including changes to admission policies that will see nursing homes required to prove the efficacy of their infection control standards before admitting new patients. The Panel also stated that protective measures should be put in place, such as the prioritisation of the influenza vaccine for all residents and staff and the requirement to have personal protective equipment readily available in nursing homes across the country, with a supervisor on hand to ensure it is appropriately used.
Although ALONE have broadly welcomed the recommendations outlined by the Nursing Homes Expert Panel, the organisation would like to see immediate action on these measures to safeguard the thousands of vulnerable older people currently living in nursing homes across the country. The organisation believes that a move towards a statutory right to home care is needed, as this would allow older people the opportunity and choice to age at home, which would in turn ease the pressure on acute medical services. ALONE has also emphasised the need to integrate health and social care services going forward to improve the current health system.
While nursing homes provide valuable support to older people with complex needs, supports must be tailored to the requirements of the individual. In many cases, older people have been prematurely moved to nursing homes because they could not avail of the supports needed to live on their own. ALONE are calling for increased funding for service-user led home support services which would enable greater numbers of older people to live at home independently.
This week ALONE has seen a spike in calls to the National Support Line from older people seeking advice on COVID-19, which the organisation believe stems directly from the surge of cases. As many older and vulnerable people are encouraged stay indoors where possible and limit their contact with others to protect themselves from the virus, ALONE want to ensure that they feel safe and protected, and believe that a renewed set of guidelines would lift the anxieties of those most at risk.
Seán Moynihan, CEO of ALONE said, “The arrival of COVID-19 in Ireland highlighted the need for urgent reassessment of the nursing home sector to safeguard vulnerable older people. The sector is disjointed, and a clear governance structure is urgently needed to bring nursing homes in line with overall healthcare in Ireland. With the right supports made available to them, many older people would be able to age at home. We believe that more needs to be done to ensure that older people receive tailored and personalised supports so that they can continue to thrive independently in their own homes.”
He continued, “This is an uncertain time for all of us. We know there is a lot of anxiety among vulnerable groups such as older people, especially given the recent increases in cases of COVID-19. Older people were hit the hardest by this pandemic, although certain measures were necessary to protect them from the virus, long periods of cocooning had a negative effect on both their mental and physical health. ALONE is doing everything possible to keep morale high among the older people we work with, promoting mental and physical wellbeing, helping older people to stay engaged and reminding them to reach out for anything they may need.”
ALONE is encouraging older people who need advice to call ALONE on 0818 222 024 from 8am-8pm, seven days a week. Contact ALONE if you have concerns about your own wellbeing, or the wellbeing of an older person you know. Further information can be found on www.alone.ie.