“Discouraged”: two weeks later, care homes and residents grapple with visitor ban

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SINGAPORE: When Mdm Lim, 72, heard about the temporary ban on visits to nursing homes, her first reaction was dismay when she thought of her sister-in-law.

Her 85-year-old sister-in-law, a post-cancer patient with multiple health issues, lives at Soo’s nursing home. Family, friends and church members took turns visiting him regularly.

But since the suspension began on September 13 amid growing clusters of COVID-19 in nursing homes, those visits have stopped.

“Family ties are important. You take that away… you don’t want the elderly to feel like we are abandoning them or rejecting them, ”said Mdm Lim.

Two weeks later, her sister-in-law, Ms. Wee, feels “disheartened” by the restrictions.

“I haven’t seen (my family) for some time. I don’t see my friends who often come to visit me. I don’t have the opportunity to meet them and enjoy our conversations, ”she told TSTIME over the phone.

But Ms. Wee, who is not married, said she has been busy writing and solving puzzles. It also helps the nursing home staff to organize exercises for the residents and to be attentive to their needs, she said.

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THE WELL-BEING OF RESIDENTS TAKES A TOUCH

The suspension, which is expected to end on October 11, is not the first time that in-person nursing home visits have been banned amid concerns over the pandemic.

But every time that happens, the well-being of residents is affected, said Mr. Kelvin Ng, CEO of Pacific Health Nursing Home.

This is especially for those who usually receive visitors at least once a week. These residents “tend to be a little more anxious and upset” by the sudden absence of visits, he said.

A spokesperson for St Luke’s ElderCare added that some residents feel lonely or abandoned, especially if they have cognitive impairment and are unable to fully understand why family members cannot visit them.

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To address this issue, home operators have said they are monitoring their residents more closely.

At MINDSVille @ Napiri, a home for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, caregivers and allied health professionals perform regular checks on the emotional well-being of residents, said Bryan Lim, director of MINDS.

Mr. Ng of Pacific Health echoed this, adding that nurses, physiotherapy assistants, art therapists and social workers have been mobilized to identify residents who are “showing change” on this front.

“These residents are then engaged psychologically and emotionally, through activities and programs such as coloring, arts and crafts, board games, chat sessions,” he said.

Soo Nursing Home Director Andrew Soo highlighted the role staff members play in the comfort of residents, especially through one-on-one interactions.

For family members who want to have contact, video or phone calls have become a must.

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“If you can’t visit, this is not the end. It’s making the effort to make phone conversations, to call as and when you can, ”said Mdm Lim.

She said she regularly sent photos to her sister-in-law, as well as “cute videos of our little panda at the zoo, my granddaughter’s dance performances, concerts, and so on.”

“So even though you’re not there physically to say it, it’s all shown. “

STAFF ALSO MAKE SACRIFICES

The suspension of in-person visits has also increased the burden on nursing home staff.

Mr. Ng of Pacific Health said there had been an “overwhelming number” of calls from anxious family members of residents, requesting daily updates and asking when visits could resume.

In response, staff at the home are reaching out to family members more frequently to provide regular updates and help ease their anxiety, he said.

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