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Where possible, one family member should be allowed with someone who is dying - Irish Hospice Foundation

The Irish Hospice Foundation said that it had sought “clarity and advice” from the HSE on the matter.

THE IRISH HOSPICE Foundation is recommending that one family member should be allowed to be with people who are dying in hospitals and care settings.

Many residential care settings and hospital wards have placed restrictions, or outright bans, on visitors in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Irish Hospice Foundation understands the strict infection control guidance in place, and is asking that ways are examined to ensure a family member is there with every person who is dying. This can include phone calls and video calls, the Foundation said.

It’s understood that this recommendation from the Foundation was sent to the HSE.

The Irish Hospice Foundation said that it was making the recommendation to “complement” the strict infection control measures that have been put in place in recent weeks.

The CEO of the Irish Hospice Foundation Sharon Foley said: “Many people and staff in care settings have raised concerns regarding any person dying alone in a healthcare setting where family/ loved ones are not allowed to visit, or be with the person, at end of life. 

There is only one chance to get end-of-life care right and we know that dying alone is hugely problematic both for the dying person and their families – creating a lasting memory of distress for families and no doubt impacting on their bereavement.

“We appreciate hospitals and other care settings, will need to assign staff to training families in the ‘donning’ and ‘doffing’ of PPE and that this training and support requires time and resources.”

The Irish Hospice Foundation said that it does “appreciate” the infection control measures in place in order to prevent further infection to visitors, their families and to staff.

“We appreciate the sacrifices families are making at this point in time,” the organisation said.

The Irish Hospice Foundation has also called on hospitals and care settings to put in place clear guidance and explanations of visiting policies for families, noting that it might differ between ICU or other wards, and details of how limited visiting can be accommodated (where possible), and clear reasons for any restricted visiting policies.

This guidance should state how families can engage with the hospital or care setting on visiting – ideally through a named contact person, such as a social worker.
If hospitals can provide as much clear detail as possible on where, how and when visiting can be allowed and facilitated, this can alleviate some distress for families.

The Irish Hospice Foundation recommends that if there is a no-visiting policy in place for infection control reasons, that “proactive measures” are put in place to ensure that dying patients and residents are not left alone.

It said that staff should use “a variety of methods to bring comfort, compassion and company to the dying person, as well as, communicating these measures and approaches to the families sensitively”.

“We appreciate this will require some staff times and resources,” the Foundation said.

The Irish Hospice Foundation has give the following advice to patients and healthcare sector workers on dealing with the death of patients during the pandemic:

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