By Laura Barr
A woman, whose father is in a care home, said she hasn’t held his hand since March, 2020.
Donna Duffy, along with other families, was at a protest at Stormont at the weekend. They called on the Department of Health to implement a care partner scheme which would access safe visits to their loved ones in care homes across Northern Ireland.
Guidance was issued on September, 23 by the department stating that care homes needed to move towards bringing about a care partner system by November 5.
The families have been supported by CHASNI (Care Home Advice and Support NI) who have been instrumental in lobbying the department and assisting the families.
Speaking to VIEWdigital, Donna said that change needs to happen now.
“My sister, Deirdre, and I are here today on behalf of our daddy who is 71, and who has dementia.
“Our daddy contracted Covid-19 during the first surge while in a care home and has now deteriorated because of this.
“We haven’t held his hand since March 12. He had to go through Coronavirus utterly alone without us even being able to put our hands on him.
“It’s not fair for this to continue, it’s not just my daddy, there are thousands of people in Northern Ireland affected and some of them don’t have a family to be their voice.
“We are here today to give every single one of them a voice.”
Donna urged the Department of Health to put in the practical and financial support for care homes to be able to implement the care partner scheme.
This would allow one family member to go into a care home, after being tested and wearing PPE, to see and hold their loved one.
She added: “As families, we want to ensure that if one family member goes in, that it is safe, and we don’t want anybody to be put at risk.
“We are eight months down the line, and it needs to happen now.”
An emotional Joanna McCord said that listening to her grandmother cry down the phone to her every day since March has been heart-breaking.
“I am here today to fight for my granny who has cared for me and my family our whole lives.
“We have never ever spent a day apart in our lives until lockdown happened.
“I am very aware, as I work in care myself, that we need to protect our vulnerable and elderly but there comes a time when you have to question where does that protection go because what is happening is people’s dignity and rights are being taken from them.
“You need your family around you, by your side, – because what is life without family?
“I don’t think I could ever forgive myself if I didn’t put up a fight about this.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Health said: “It is essential and a matter of human rights that all residents maintain important social connections with those who are important to them.”
They said various authorities are working with care homes “to ensure the visiting guidance and care partner arrangements are fully implemented”.