PCR tests and seven isolation days for the elderly who spend Christmas at home

Retirement homes and the Health department advises residents to stay in their centres

Christmas at home for elderly people in retirement homes. The health department and ACRA, the large employer in the sector, have agreed to allow residents to leave with mandatory checks and isolation upon their return. At the moment, however, it all pends on the evolution of the epidemiological data. Those centres that are in red, that is, those that have positive cases but not enough capacity to differentiate spaces and guarantee quarantines, as well as people who are awaiting the results of tests or have symptoms, are left out.

However, the spirit of the agreement says that it is best that residents stay in their centers to minimize risks and, if they want to go to their families, it will be advised to do so for a period of "minimum three days", according to the Health Department, because otherwise "it will not be worth" the subsequent discomfort of having to undergo an antigen test upon departure and a subsequent PCR test and being in isolation upon return, ACRA president Cinta Pascual points out, who is uneasy that the movements of entries and exits could frustrate the "hopes" that the sector has put in the vaccines, which have to start being distributed from January on.

The role of families is a key point for the Christmas plan, since they will have to have a high level of commitment for those who choose to leave their retirement homes for a few hours, for example to attend a family meal. For these cases, it will be necessary to sign a declaration in which they take responsibility for the fact that seven days before they have respected the bubble of coexistence and have not been in contact with any positive cases. In this sense, Pascual appeals to "common sense" and insists that it is important for families to be sincere because the "risk is too high, not only for the family member, but for the rest of the users".

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However, the main recommendation is that older people stay in their retirement homes. Centres will make visiting regimes more flexible and try, as far as possible, to increase the spaces available to guarantee compliance with distance and hygiene measures in the meetings, and prioritise "walks and stays in the gardens" if the temperature permits it, Pascual says.

Both on the way out and on the way back in, retirement home residents will be tested to rule out infections and minimize risks. Starting from December 21st, all residents will be tested for antigens, and the commitment is that after Christmas all will have passed a PCR test, the department says. "I'm not so worried about how they leave, which I'm sure will be OK, but that they come back infected", the head of the employers' association insists, who admits that the main source of entry of the coronavirus into retirement homes is through professionals and, to a much lesser extent, visits to hospitals or relatives.

Among the relatives of retirement homes residents there is also much "concern" about the impact that the celebration of Christmas holidays can have, after "nine months of hell", in the words of Lola Muñoz, promoter of the platform Els Estels Silenciats, who finds it difficult to understand how it has been possible to go from "prohibiting visits to letting [the elderly] leave" for a few days. She assures that her platform's wish is to "give back lost dignity" to retirement centre residents, since she affirms that "they are being killed alive". 

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