To fight against isolation in nursing homes, a “right to receive loved ones and visit one’s loved ones”

The entrance to a nursing home, in Nantes, November 30, 2022.

“He is the love of my life and I am his last”, she says. Every Wednesday, around 1 p.m., Stéphanie leaves work. She gets behind the wheel and drives fast. Fabrice (first names have been changed) is waiting for him in a nursing home, about thirty kilometers from Périgueux.

At 65, the former educator lives in a “closed unit” with other residents suffering, like him, from a neurodegenerative pathology. Visits to this public retirement home are permitted from 1:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. However, Stéphanie is only free one afternoon per week. Wednesday is the only time the couple can get together. “Here is not a prison”, ensures management of the establishment. “Still a little bit!” », regrets Stéphanie who is surprised to find, some days, Fabrice locked in his room, by the staff who hold the key.

At the height of the Covid-19 epidemic in 2020, nursing homes were confined for weeks. The doors have not widely reopened since. Visitor restrictions continue. The obstacles have even increased in certain cases.

“Restraints on the presence of loved ones”

“Several recent alerts show the perpetuation of certain behaviors, as if the crisis had made it possible to discover a previously unexploited power of the director”, attests Laurent Frémont, in a report submitted on November 14 to the Ministry of Health. The lawyer, teaching at Sciences Po, paints a gloomy picture of “trauma” thousands of families including loved ones, “locked up” in nursing homes during the health crisis, died of grief if not of the virus. For “prevent these forced isolations from happening again”, he pleads for a “right to receive one’s loved ones, and to visit one’s loved ones”.

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The measure appears in the bill “on measures to build the society of aging well in France”, adopted at first reading in the National embly on November 23. For the first time, a legislative text provides that the “right” to “respect” of “private and family life” of a resident of a retirement home umes the “visiting his family and loved ones”. “It was necessary to go through the law”welcomes Bernadette Ojardias, vice-president of the Ehpad Familles 42 collective and other departments. The ociation, established in the Loire, calculates that, out of around fifteen nursing homes in Roanne and its surroundings, five are currently closed to visitors in the morning and evening.

The Defender of Rights, Claire Hédon, would have preferred that the law go so far as to provide for a “daily visiting rights”. The institution also observes the “brakes placed on the presence of loved ones” in Ephad. It is based on testimonies received in recent months, such as that of Mme Z., whose father, she confides, “totally dependent, cannot feed himself”. Visiting hours (2 p.m. to 6 p.m.) prevent her from being present at meal times. The man is malnourished and has several bedsores. The establishment claims to provide him with food supplements. Mme Z. says “find them in the cupboard, unused”.

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