by Colin Campbell
INVERNESS care home staff are appalled by the Scottish Government’s new ruling that residents must now wear face masks in communal areas, and what one described as the nightmare prospect of trying to enforce it.
The diktat decrees that from June 25 elderly folk must be trussed up with masks at all times in all communal areas of homes where they sit, meet and chat.
There is huge concern among staff about the effect this will have on the old folk in their care who, unlike the rest of the population, will have to wear masks in the place they regard as their home.
One nursing home staff member said: “How can this possibly benefit elderly people and improve their quality of life? And if they rightly protest about it, how can it be implemented. It’s a nightmare scenario.”
Another told us: “It is simply inhumane.”
The new decree came in a week when the Scottish Government’s consistency, rationality and even basic humanity in handling the virus seemed to have almost collapsed altogether.
In Glasgow, thousands of football fans are being allowed to gather daily in a fanzone where drink is flowing freely and all rules relating to the virus are likely to have been completely forgotten by half time, and in many cases before kick off, particularly on days like Monday when Scotland are playing.
The party atmosphere free-for-all has been widely condemned as a stunning reversal of Nicola Sturgeon’s sternly ultra-cautious approach to virus restrictions and their easing over the past year.
All the football matches would be available on BBC and ITV to the fanzone hordes if they stayed at home and watched them on the telly. The decision to allow them to gather in large numbers for what many view as mass drunken parties, every day potentially but almost inevitably when Scotland games are being screened, has been condemned as a betrayal by sectors like the hospitality industry, who have had to cope with potentially ruinous regulations.
Glasgow has only just been removed from tier 3 status, and a state of near lockdown.
But it is the care home ruling which looms largest for staff who have already endured the most arduous and stressful time of their lives, with family members having been refused access to see their elderly loved ones for months on end.
While many, particularly younger people, seem to have no problem wearing face masks, even while walking around outdoors with no one anywhere near them, as a general rule the older people are the more averse they are to this completely alien practice.
Very, very few older people in their 60s, 70s or 80s wear masks other than when it is an absolute necessity, on public transport and in shops. And they usually can’t wait to get the stifling and uncomfortable face coverings off.
Having to wear them in their homes would be an unthinkable prospect. But that, effectively, is what elderly care home residents are being required to do.
One Inverness care home staff member told us: “It has been an extremely stressful year and more for everyone, residents, their relatives, and staff. And now this is being inflicted on us all. It is appalling.”
At one city care home a woman turned up covered from head to foot in full PPE clothing and pleaded to get in to see an elderly parent. But amid, distressing scenes, she had to be refused entry.
Restrictions have now been relaxed but homes now face the sudden and wholly unexpected imposition of the most draconian ruling of all.
It seems likely that some homes will claim residents have exemption from wearing masks to avoid them being put in a situation that could confuse them and damage – or further damage – their mental health.
Care Home Relatives Scotland, which represents residents’ families, has called the mask-wearing policy an ‘unacceptable form of control and restraint” created “with no apparent consultation with care home stakeholders’.
“Covid cases are currently at the lowest ever in care homes and vaccine uptake is high.
“There can be no justification for enforcing residents to wear masks during personal care and communal activities in a setting which is supposed to be their home.”
Anyone who has ever had an elderly relative in a home will realise how confusing, distressing and unacceptable it will be for them having to wear masks while they are trying to talk to other residents, given the stifling feeling many of us experience when wearing masks in a setting for any length of time.
The Scottish Government may be forced to rethink this new move, the broader implications of which seem barely have been considered at all.
As it it stands, of all decrees issued by Nicola Sturgeon’s government over the past 15 months, this mindless diktat is the one closest to inhumanity and outright cruelty.