Article 8 – Right to Privacy & Family life
Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence
It takes time for someone to feel comfortable in a home that is not their own, but routines, connections (with family, friends and community) are so valuable to help retain a sense of peace and comfort. Take away family visits, take away social interaction, take away tactile staff interventions and, notwithstanding digital innovation, ‘life’ is so much less. What we have seen is a potentially unacceptable and disproportionate restriction of Article 8 rights, namely the ability of individuals to achieve physical and psychological integrity through normal discourse, normal relationships and expected activities. The care home as their ‘home’ should be a place where they can exercise their right to form relationships with other residents that will fulfil them – with their movements restricted, those relationships faltered.
Infection Prevention and Control led to an excessively dogmatic approach to the care home setting an. Quality & Assurance visits were executed with varying degrees of understanding and compassion for the settings; where they sought to over-medicalise by insisting that personal items such as framed pictures and soft toys were removed to prevent infection spread, they exposed their misunderstanding and lack of sensitivity of the environment as a home, and not a clinical space the resident filled.
Visiting has returned to homes, but far too late when compared with relaxations afforded to other sectors. Health and Social Care Partnerships need to be much more responsive to risk assessments that have been submitted by homes to minimise any delays – reports of these returning for sign-off 5 times are just unacceptable. Whilst all agree that there must be rigour with all easements, we did not get the balance right between the desire to maximise safety and infection prevention and the requirement to restore people to their normal relationships and routines.
Any future spike that would be accompanied by some form of lockdown restrictions must take into account the imperative for individuals’ choices over what risks they are prepared to take over quantity of life and how those risks can sit alongside infection prevention.
A rights-based presumption that started from a position of finding a ‘safe’ way to do things like family visits would have gone some way towards alleviating a huge amount of unnecessary stress and anguish, often in the last days and weeks of life There needs to be due consideration given to how effective consultation has been with family members who have capacity – the mooted classification of a member of the family as an ‘essential’ visitor to the home setting must be scoped out as fully as possible. Paid carers are the lifeblood of the sector, but, however talented, skilled and intuitive, they are not a beloved link to a familiar world, a face that prompts accessible memories and soothes anxiety.
Equally, the advances made in digital innovation in these settings need to be extended beyond the pandemic to enrich lives even further. Necessity is the mother of invention, but there is such a wealth of options available that are compatible with one’s human right to family life & connection.