Protected but lonely: The ban on visiting nursing homes related to the corona has hit residents and relatives hard. Many doors are now open again – and that’s how it should stay. Instead of complete isolation, the Ministry of Health and Homes relies on protection concepts and local restrictions.
Author: Vera Cornette, BR
The beginning was hellish, Ute Schaal recalls a time when visitors were not allowed to visit. Schaal is the head of the household at the Alt-Lehel retirement home in the Bavarian Red Cross in the middle of Munich. He leads into a small conference room, pushes the blinds aside, and points to the front of the window. “Visitors stood on the street, the inhabitants sat here. There was no contact, they only heard on the phone and looked out the window, “says Schaal about the first few weeks of spring in Corona conditions.
Emil Kvrgic, a nurse and head of the department, recalls a time that was difficult for everyone. Many demented people live in his church: “They just couldn’t understand what was going on.” It was hard to explain to them what awaited them now.
Visits are again possible
The situation has been more relaxed since mid-May. The entrances to the nursing home are no longer open as they were before Corona. However, visitors no longer need to register in advance. Mouth and nose protection is mandatory, as is hand disinfection in the entrance area. At the check-in counter, visitors still have to turn their heads – to measure their fever. If everything is in order, you place yourself on the list and you can go to your relatives.
Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn called for it to remain so. He ruled out renewed nationwide bans on visits to nursing homes and retirement homes. “Visiting is no longer necessary, restrictions and concepts are needed, especially in winter, when it is no longer so easy to meet outside,” Spahn said in early September. Any outbreak should respond regionally or locally.
For Bavaria, for example, this means: If more than 35 infections occur per 100,000 people, health authorities can react preventively. Stopping visitors can be ordered if the threshold is more than 50 infections per 100,000 people. This can be arranged by the homes themselves as well as by the health authorities or the Bavarian National Ministry of Health. However, a general ban is unlikely, it can also be heard from the house of the Bavarian Minister of Health Melanie Humlová.
Isolation only as an exception solution
However, Andreas Westerfellhaus, an authorized representative of the federal government for care, complains that individual facilities still rely on insulation and therefore visit bans to protect the corona. Six months after the start of the pandemic, this is no longer acceptable, Westerfellhaus said. Virus infection is a great risk for the inhabitants of care facilities, but complete isolation can only be the right solution in exceptional cases.
It is also criticized by the German Patient Protection Foundation. Protective measures have affected 900,000 residents of homes very differently. “General regulations offer 12,000 households too much space,” said board member Eugen Brysch. “In isolation, bearers often go too far.” Federal and state governments would need to revise the rules to ensure a minimum level of rights to liberty.
The Alt-Lehel retirement home in Munich is trying to make visits possible. But autumn, with a possible increase in infections, could be a big challenge for households again. You need to find a balance between protecting your health and being close to people.