At this time of unprecedented national crisis, everybody is looking for new ways to work and communicate remotely. This includes residents in UK care homes, of whom there are over 400,000. Many of these people depend on frequent visits from relatives and friends and the absence of those visits will be taking its toll, not only on the residents themselves, but on the family members who cannot see their loved ones.
Care homes offering additional support to residents
A growing number of care homes have, to their credit, been very creative in offering individuals ways and means of keeping up contact with their relatives. Supported use of Whatsapp, organised Facetime communications and the use of other forms of software (such as Person Centred Software) is enabling relatives to keep up communications with protected parties.
It would be wrong to speak about care homes at such a time without paying enormous tribute to the dedicated carers, some of whom have reportedly had to move into the care homes themselves during the coronavirus lockdown to ensure residents are looked after properly.
Family disputes involving people who lack mental capacity
There are sadly a number of people who have difficulty seeing their loved one at all when there is a family dispute, particularly in cases where a care home resident lacks the capacity to decide for themselves and may be having his/her decisions made by another relative (under a Power of Attorney), a professional deputy or a Local Authority.
Many people in such a situation have to bring Court of Protection proceedings and end up in long and gruelling battles with family members. Those who are in the midst of such a struggle will now be finding it harder still. However, that does not mean you cannot still press your case in Court even during these difficult times.
Contact with protected care home residents during the coronavirus lockdown
Contact with close relatives is not in itself an automatic entitlement because it falls under the umbrella of what a Court considers to be in the best interests of a protected party. It is a key health and welfare consideration, not least because it is generally considered to be good for the mental health of both protected parties and relatives to have regular face to face contact. The Court will consider the wishes and feelings of close relatives when deciding whether contact should take place, and if so, how often and what it will involve.
If you are in the unfortunate situation of having no means of contacting a protected party, whilst the Court of Protection cannot override the provisions of the Coronavirus Act 2020, it can nonetheless direct those responsible for the protected party’s welfare to undertake all reasonable steps to ensure that the protected party has contact with you. This can include actively setting up Facetime calls, Whatsapp messages, contact via portals and innovative technology such as the Person Centred Software.
It is open to all shunned relatives to argue that under the Human Rights Act 1998, denial of contact with their loved one can be a breach of their right to respect for family and private life and this is a powerful factor in favour of keeping up contact.
The care homes who have – within budgetary constraints – gone the extra mile to preserve contact between residents who lack capacity and family members deserve enormous credit. Those people who feel a care home could be doing more do have a means of seeking relief however and an application to the Court of Protection can lead to enhanced and better quality contact with a protected party.
How can Nelsons help?
If you have any questions regarding the subjects discussed in this article, please contact Lewis or another member of the team in Derby, Leicester or Nottingham on 0800 024 1976 or via our online form.