'Please don't let loneliness in the nursing home be my dad's reason to leave this Earth'

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An elderly woman who is 67 years married fears her husband’s health will deteriorate due to loneliness from Covid-19 visitor restrictions.

The family of Jim Neilan (91), from Walkinstown in Dublin, are appealing to the Government to relax the rules so they can bring Aileen (91) to see her husband for the first time since March.

They believe that loneliness and the mental health of the elderly in nursing homes should now be given priority.

“We have to think of their mental health. If Covid-19 doesn’t kill them, loneliness will,” his daughter Siobhan said.

In recent weeks, the Neilans were worried about Jim’s health after a number of falls and bad chest and kidney infections.

During this time, they could only speak to him via web cam.

Thankfully, his health has improved, especially after Siobhan was allowed to see him for just 15 minutes.

She said: “Dad is 91 and in the last few weeks, his decline worried mam and I, as well as our sisters Paula, Bronagh and Syra.

“He could barely speak. Thankfully, he has made a remarkable recovery in the last few days but he misses mam and she misses him.

“She and all of us had to make the heart-wrenching decision to put him into a nursing home last year as he needed 24-hour care but he settled in amazingly well and came home for dinner every Saturday.

“He is in the best of care and we are so grateful to the staff who have tried to keep life as normal as possible, but until management receive guidelines from the HSE to relax restrictions, their hands are tied.

“I was allowed to see him for a short while this week and when I was there, I played him a few of his favourite songs that he used to always sing to mam, including ‘Strangers in the Night’ and ‘Some Enchanted Evening’.

“My dad had a colourful life, working all over the world as a fitter engineer. He sold his paintings on St Stephen’s Green when he retired and was chairman of our local community.

“He was a real people person. He loved company and people and they loved him.

“Mam needs to see him and he needs to see all of us – please don’t let loneliness be my dad’s reason to leave this Earth.

“We cannot wait for another committee to be set up in six months’ time to examine the failings in allowing residents the basic right to have some precious time with those who love them.”

Nursing home residents would be able to see family members outdoors under proposals for easing coronavirus visitor restrictions.

Health Minister Simon Harris said it’s one option being considered by the health service.

He last week announced the establishment of a Covid-19 nursing home expert panel to look at issues arising from the pandemic.

In recent days he has again come under pressure over clusters of Covid-19 cases among vulnerable elderly people in long-term care facilities.

Mr Harris said all nursing home patients and staff are now tested for coronavirus regardless of symptoms.

He said coronavirus outbreaks had been stemmed in 29 nursing homes, meaning no new Covid-19 cases in those homes for more than 28 days.

Irish Independent

Source: Irish News