Age Action Ireland has called on the Government to consult with older people about how best to live with Covid-19 restrictions and to facilitate safe visits for nursing home residents who feel "forgotten and invisible".

Celine Clarke from Age Action Ireland said older people feel "talked about but not to" and are not consulted about what they need, their ideas about living with Covid-19 or the current measures and how they impact their lives.

She said that people living in nursing homes and their families feel "very forgotten and almost feel invisible" and the Government can and should prioritise these people. 

This can be done by "accelerating and implementing" the recommendations of the report by the nursing home expert review committee and also the Oireachatas committee's recommendation to conduct an enquiry into deaths in nursing homes as a result of Covid-19, she said.

Ms Clarke said that even more immediately, innovative solutions are needed to facilitate visiting for nursing home residents.

She said there is no difference to their lives between Levels 3, 4 and 5 and this taking a huge toll on their health and well-being and undermining their rights to autonomy and dignity.

Ms Clarke said that each residence is different but 'we could mobilise people in both civil society and government to come together" with nursing home managers to find a way to facilitate visiting in a safe way.

She said plans for Christmas need to be "clear, concise and accessible - and applicable to all families".

She urged families and friends to come together and make a plan now about who is going to be in your bubble and how you are going to manage your own risk. 

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Psychologist Dr Maureen Gaffney said it is critical that every message given to older people about Covid-19 and protecting themselves from it, should emphasise the control they have over their lives.

Dr Gaffney said older people were being patronised during the pandemic despite the fact that they "are aware of their increased risk" of contracting the virus.

"Age makes you more vulnerable to a lot of illnesses and they are conscious of that and the message should be left at that."

Speaking on the same programme, she said there is evidence to show that the more people believe age determines your health, the worse the outcome, not just in a pandemic but in ordinary times as well.

Dr Gaffney said while people who are older can take longer to process information, especially if that information is changing all the time, they compensate by reflecting much more on the details of it.

She thinks the majority of grandparents will want to be with their families at Christmas, stating that one of the changes that happens as people get older is that they become determined to make the best use of the time they have left in life.

She said there is a particularly close bond between teenagers or people in their 20s and their grandparents. 

Dr Gaffney said she thinks grandparents could have a very positive influence on this group of people, which would resonate a strong message about staying safe at this time and keeping their risks low.

Nursing home visit restrictions 'not sustainable'

The co-owner of Marymount Nursing Home in Lucan, Dublin, said the current Covid-19 visiting restrictions for residents are "not sustainable".

Conor McNulty said "window visits in the winter months, where residents or visitors can't hear each other are not quality visits" and said he hopes further guidance will be issued to nursing home owners to improve the standard of visits for residents and their loved ones.

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Claire Byrne, he said: "This has to happen to allow people to have a quality visit with a loved one particularly at this time of the year in the run up to Christmas".

Mr McNulty said Marymount has been Covid-19 free for four months after staff and residents experienced a "very difficult time" earlier this year. 

He said in previous years a small number of residents would leave the nursing home for a time over Christmas to stay with their loved ones, but this year that would require a resident being in isolation on their return, which "would not be a good trade off".