Care home workers across Wales are preparing for indoor visits after the Welsh Government released new guidelines on Thursday.
According to the official guidance, visits should be limited to 30 minutes with a maximum of two people from the same household and young children/toddlers should only attend visits in exceptional circumstances due to the difficulty of social distancing.
Health Minister Vaughan Gething said the advice is just a guide for care home staff and so they can decide when visitors are welcome again. He encouraged friends and families to “be patient and understand as homes begin to work through the logistics”.
Care home workers in Neath Port Talbot spoke to the Local Democracy Service about their plans to set up indoor visits over the next few weeks.
Nigel Clark, manager of Alma Lodge Care Home in Taibach, Port Talbot said visits are slowly beginning again inside the home which he thinks will benefit the wellbeing of the residents.
A designated seating area has been set-up in the home for visitors, who are required to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) and have their temperature checked on arrival.
Visitors who may be ill are advised not to attend and those who have been on holiday abroad must isolate for 14 days before coming to the home.
“It’s quite strict and we’re still keeping a two-metre social distancing gap,” he said.
“We’ve got a small entrance foyer so it’s in that area.
“The visits only last for 30 minutes and then we can clear down the area.
“We’re glad we’re able to do it. It is good for when the weather changes and the residents can see their families again inside.
“The system is good – all the staff are tested so that’s working well.”
Josephine Rashid, owner of Woodside House Nursing & Residential Home, Port Talbot, said she is still preparing for indoor visits to take place with a view to start them in two weeks.
“We will have a designated visitors’ area and then the family will have to wear face shields,” she said.
She said preparing for indoor visits has been “a bit tricky” because the government guidance was only issued on Thursday and she wants to be sure the “benefits outweigh the risks” otherwise outdoor visits will continue instead.
Residents in Welsh care homes have been able to meet their friends and families outdoors since June 16.
Mr Clark said outdoor visits have been successful at Alma Lodge with friends and family paying close attention to social distancing and hygiene rules.
“Everybody’s trying their best to get back to some type of normal.
“We’ve done outside visits and that’s worked quite safely.”
Shelley Coleman, activities co-coordinator at Park View Care Home, Neath said one of the lounges in the home will be used for indoor visits but while the weather is good, meetings can take place outside where they have a gazebo.
“Families will have an appointment to come in. They’ve got to be masked-up, wash their hands, use hand gel and then they’ll be in the lounge with the family member with a plastic shield going in front of them.
“I sorted a rota out so it’ll start at 10 o’clock, they’ll have half-hour slots and be two-metres apart.”
Ms Coleman said the home has been organising outdoor visits over the past month or so which had a positive impact on the residents’ wellbeing.
“They were different people, a lot happier, a bit tearful because they hand’t seen them for so long.
“At the beginning of lockdown, the residents were obviously a bit upset because they couldn’t see their families.
“My manager set up a lounge on the third floor so I’ve got my own day centre.
“We do arts and crafts and entertainment. I do some singing for them, dancing.”
Mr Clark said: “We do need to look at the wellbeing of the residents because that has been affected, certainly from March till June.
“That was a difficult time when you could only have a phone call but now we’ve gone to the next stage.
“It’s just one of those things – we’ve got to take it step by step and take our time.”