As the nursing home conference opens on Tuesday, September 12, and the report on visiting rights is due to be delivered this week, the trauma of Covid-19 and the deprivation of links between the elderly and their loved ones remains. Co-founder of the Circle of Caregivers in Nursing Homes (CPAE), Danielle Cabrera had both her parents in a public nursing home in the south of France at the time. Due to isolation, she lost her mother to slip syndrome – a rapid decline in physical and cognitive abilities. Suffering from a form of Alzheimer’s, her father died two weeks ago.
“Her only ray of sunshine was seeing us,” she says, “but after Covid, it took a long time to return to normal. “At first very restricted until June 2021, visits were only authorized all day long a year later. “We had to fight to come back in the morning, when it was time to wash, which fueled suspicion… We said to ourselves: “But what are they trying to hide from us at this point?” “, says Danielle Cabrera.
“There is an absolute requirement to transform nursing homes”
“We are tired of being dispossessed of our parents, supports Sabrina Deliry, another co-founder of the CPAE. Families often hear, “we need to cut the cord,” because they are too present and it’s disturbing. » Since Covid, many relatives have reported the attempt by nursing home directors to close establishments “at the slightest pretext”: an epidemic of flu, gastro, a lack of staff… “Today, we dare to denounce more , we are no longer silent, ”says Sabrina Deliry.
After going to the front, the families won their case. Last March, Jean-Christophe Combe, at the time Minister of Solidarity, pledged that “no person accommodated in nursing homes would no longer suffer from isolation due to a health protocol” and that “that no family is denied access to their loved ones”. In the process, the government launched a mission “aimed at finding avenues and issuing recommendations in order to ensure that the right to visit nursing homes is effective and always respected”.
“This report is important. There is an absolute requirement to transform nursing homes and in particular to discuss the notion of accommodation: people are at home, and when we are at home, we have the right to receive whoever we want,” says Emmanuel Hirsch, professor emeritus. in medical ethics at the University of Paris-Saclay, and, since January 2023, director of ethics for the Orpea group.
Respect the balance between autonomy and security
If the families have become aware of their power and have mobilized more, the rules have also moved in the establishments. “The health crisis has forced us to question visiting rights from an angle that we had not questioned until then,” recognizes Séverine Laboue, director of nursing homes in Hauts-de-France. It is now “unthinkable” to make a decision in your establishment without consulting residents and family, “even in an emergency”.
The other change is the case-by-case emphasis. “You have to know how to adapt. If a resident at the end of life is ill, I will not stupidly apply visiting hours, I will make an exception,” continues Séverine Laboue. However, the difficulty remains in respecting the balance between autonomy and security. “The freedom of some ends where that of others begins. In nursing homes, we could say that it stops where the risk for others begins, which is not always easy to accept,” she explains. “The objective is to have an open and caring approach while making people aware of their responsibilities,” summarizes Emmanuel Hirsch.